THE move by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to meet with three key leaders of the opposition is a step in the right direction to ending the political crisis, which has been hampering efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic that is wreaking havoc on our country.
Political stability in the next six months to one year will usher in a mood of public confidence for domestic and foreign investments.
There is a need to view MPs, both government and opposition, in the right perspective. Both are elected by the people, but the word “opposition” is often erroneously taken to mean that opposition MPs are anti-government.
All MPs are loyal citizens of Malaysia, and their loyalty is to King and country based on the principles of the Rukun Negara and the Federal Constitution. They are public officials of Parliament and elected by the people. Therefore, they must be treated equally. End the practice of giving higher allocations to government MPs compared to opposition MPs. The latter must be entitled to employ staff paid from public funds and have an office in a government building.
In the United Kingdom, the leader of the opposition commands an additional salary to the parliamentary salary he receives as an MP. He is also invited to attend all major government functions.
Parliament must be independent from the Executive. The Speaker and deputies must be impartial to all MPs and must gain the support of the majority of MPs. The agenda must be determined by a joint committee with the Speaker. The government could table its priorities, but there must be an understanding with the opposition MPs on these matters.
Parliamentary behaviour during the sessions must be enforced so that MPs do not misbehave and disrupt the proceedings.
All MPs must respect the call and decision of the Speaker, and foster rational, open and even argumentative conversations but in a respectful way. Therefore, when one speaks the other must listen and wait for his/her turn. They must display utmost statesmanship both in the House and outside. This is why they are called “Yang berhomat” (honourable).
All MPs must also be given adequate time to speak. This is where, if select committees are active and dynamic, there will be a change in the conduct of MPs.
Increase the work of parliamentarians in select committees and the All Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia (APPGM). This, to me, should be at the heart of the Parliament’s work.
The role played by the APPGM on Sustainable Development Goals (APPGM SDG) is a very good example of bipartisan partnerships at the parliamentary level. The chair is from the government party and the deputy chair is from the opposition.
We are working in 30 parliamentary constituencies with MPs from all the major political parties. Since undertaking this task in October 2019, we have recognised that all MPs have a deep commitment to resolving local issues such as poverty and inequality, and improving the resilience of the people.
Inclusion of opposition MPs is critical in the National Recovery Council (MPN) and Special Committee on Tackling Covid-19.
We have capable people in Malaysia; what we need is political leadership with foresight to recognise and empower them to carry out their tasks with little political interference.
PROF DATUK DR DENISON JAYASOORIA
Head, APPGM SDG secretariat
and co-chair of the Malaysian CSO SDG Alliance