ON Monday, the 14th Parliament of Malaysia will meet for the very first time. It will be a momentous event after a historic general election that resulted in, for the very first time, a change of government at the federal level.
Members of Parliament representing 222 constituencies throughout the country will once again convene in the Dewan Rakyat.
It will, of course, be a very different Dewan Rakyat than the one dissolved to pave way for GE14. The election gave Malaysia about 90 first-time MPs, a first in the history of the country.
Political alliances have also changed; Barisan Nasional has now been reduced to three component parties, while Sarawak’s BN parties have formed Gagasan Parti Sarawak and the Sabah parties have charted their own paths.
Meanwhile, the Government enjoys the support of representatives from the Pakatan Harapan parties and Parti Warisan Sabah, as well as some independent MPs.
There is much hope that rests with the new Parliament. Pakatan was voted into power with the expectation that it will usher in a new and better Malaysia.
In its manifesto, the coalition has promised several legislative and institutional reforms. They must show the people that they are committed to those reforms.
In this first meeting of the first session, the Government must at least table Bills to abolish or amend certain anti-democratic laws.
There should be no reason why laws such as the Anti-Fake News Act and Sedition Act should not be abolished at the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting.
The fact that these laws should be removed from our statute books should not require further study.
So too, amendments to remove certain restrictive provisions in Acts which as a whole could still remain, such as the Universities and University Colleges Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Others reforms should include reserving the chair of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee for an Opposition MP, establishing institutionalised Parliamentary Select Committees and strengthening the independence of Parliament.
Also pursuant to the manifesto, at least 30 minutes a week is expected to be reserved for parliamentary Question Time.
The new Parliament should not bulldoze through Bills like the old Parliament. Bills must be allowed sufficient time to be debated and scrutinised, and not passed according to the whims and fancies of the executive.
For the longest time, our Parliament was known more for its shouting matches instead of the quality of debates by the parliamentarians.
This must change. The new MPs must begin a new culture of respect and civility, while the more senior MPs must lead the way with quality debates and discussions.
We have always looked to other countries as examples when it comes to parliamentary proceedings.
But with the paradigm shift brought about by GE14, we now have a chance to transform our Parliament into a world-class institution respected throughout the world.
We, the people of Malaysia, place our hopes on the shoulders of the 222 women and men who make up the Dewan Rakyat.
Syahredzan Johan is a partner of a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur with an interest in the laws that shape our country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
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