Selangor moves towards creating an independent legislative body

(The Sun Daily) : Selangor hopes to lead the way by enacting a law that will make the legislative branch — the State Assembly — truly independent of the executive branch of the state government, namely the Mentri Besar, his executive councillors and the administrative service.

Kahlid Ibrahim deliver a keynote address during opening the
Selangor Legislative Assembly Service Enactment 2009 forum
at Concorde Hotel, Shah Alam.

Once enacted by the state legislature, the Selangor State Assembly will be an independent branch of government with its own administration, budget and structure almost like what the national parliament was before the 1992 abolition of the Parliamentary Services Act 1963.

It will make the executives more responsible to the representatives of the people or the wakil rakyat. Under the proposed enactment, the speaker of the assembly will have sole jurisdiction of what goes on in the legislative precinct which the new law proposes to define.

"The Selangor government is trying to set an example by working towards strengthening its State Assembly’s role as a legislative body that is on par with the other legislatures in Commonwealth countries," said Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said when opening the Seminar on Selangor Legislative Assembly Service Commission Enactment 2009 (Selesa).

"This is a practice in Commonwealth countries and we hope that Selesa can clearly distinguish and separate the roles and functions of the executive and legislative bodies in the state government," he said.

The state assemblymen and Selangor Members of Parliament and law experts discussed the proposed draft of the enactment during the seminar, which was held at at hotel here.

The draft enactment contained new measures, which include the jurisdiction of the commission, placing of the management of staff and finances of the state assembly under Selesa, that is independent of the executive, and providing administrative and support services to the legislative body.

Under the proposed enactment, a commission would be set up to be chaired by the assembly speaker with other members being the MB, opposition leaders and five or six state assemblymen.

Shad Saleem Faruqi

The speakers at the seminar were Universiti Technologi Mara's (UiTM) Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, advocate and solicitor Tommy Thomas, and International Islamic University Malaysia Prof Dr Aziz Bari.

Commenting on what he described as a "comprehensive" proposed enactment, Shad Faruqi said it should always be remembered that the legislature and its members are tasked with four functions — control of the legislation, state finances, state executives and constituency function.

He said it was unfortunate that almost everywhere in the world the executive has captured the legislative process where the legislature "legitimates but does not legislate."

"Please forgive me for saying anything offensive but these are the realities. However these realities have to be changed."

Among the points raised by Shad Faruqi and Thomas is that each state should have its own team of legal experts and draughtsmen as in cases where there is tension between the state and the federal it might not be convenient for the state to depend on legal draftsman from the attorney-general's office.

"There should be an independent draftsman. It does not make sense to me that the bills of the Selangor assembly should be drafted by the federal attorney-general, because views can be different and it may cause problems later on," Shad Faruqi said.

The law professor also asked the state to take into account the appointment of a number of training officers to assist assemblymen in their duties to conduct seminars, pre-sessions meeting, courses in the law and standing orders and customs of the assembly.

"Finance and administrative assistants should also be given to all members of the asssembly to set up a service centre in his or her constituency," he said.