What we mean by ‘independent’ MPs (UPDATED with Chinese Translation)

Are Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat ready for independent-minded Members of Parliament amongst their ranks? Are the Members of Parliament prepared to meet the voters first before deciding whether to vote in support of or in opposition to any bill?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Yesterday, during the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCM) forum in London, I equated the MCLM to a repair outfit and those in the MCLM as a repair team. And our job is to repair something that is broken or is no longer working properly. And in this case the thing that is broken or no longer works properly is the Malaysian Parliament.

Just go to Youtube and see any one of those many video recordings of the debates in the Malaysian Parliament. Then go to the BCC Parliament channel on British TV and compare the debates in the UK with those in Malaysia. In fact, you need not even go to the BBC Parliament channel. Just go to any English public school and observe the students debating. Even these school kids debate better than many if not most of the 222 Malaysian Members of Parliament.

Then randomly throw out questions on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and see how Malaysian Parliamentarians reply. For example: “How many article are there in the Constitution? What is Article 43 about? When was Article 150 amended? When was Article 140 abrogated? What Article allows for detention without trial? Under which Article does the Police Act come under? ” And so on.

You will find that most Parliamentarians can’t talk about the Constitution from memory, even those who are lawyers.

The Malaysian Parliament is like a circus and many Parliamentarians are like circus clowns.

This is the first thing we need to fix or repair.

The MCLM has set certain standards or specifications that Members of Parliament should meet. If these standards or specifications are applied to the fullest, not many of the existing 222 Member of Parliament would be qualified enough to hold office. That is how high the standards and specifications set by the MCLM.

Whether we may need to relax these standards and specifications or compromise them because of the difficulty in finding Malaysians who meet them is left to be seen. Most likely it would not be so much as not being able to find Malaysians who meet these standards and specifications rather than not being able to convince them to do national service by contesting the general election.

What we want to achieve, first of all, is the restoration of the four independent branches of government — Monarchy, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. While we may have these four branches they are not independent. In short, the Executive calls all the shots and the Monarchy, Legislature and Judiciary does its bidding. So we actually have only one branch of government and another word for this is dictatorship.

Let’s take one example a few years ago when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was still the Prime Minister. Parliament tried to pass a bill that dealt with Islamic family laws and many were not happy with it and it appeared like there was going to be a ‘mutiny’ with many Barisan Nasional Parliamentarians voting against it.

Nazri Aziz summoned all the Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament for a meeting and told them that they must support the bill. So reluctantly the Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament voted in favour of the bill and it was then sent to the Senate.

The Senate, however, rejected the bill and sent it back to Parliament. It appeared like there was going to be a crisis so the Prime Minister stepped in and suspended the bill and sent it into cold storage.

How could Abdullah Badawi do that? Is the Prime Minister above Parliament? That was a bill passed by Parliament — although with a gun at the head. Can the Executive override or overrule Parliament? Apparently in Malaysia he can. And apparently Parliament just does what the Executive asks it to do.

Why the need for a Parliament then? If you run a public company and the 12 board members have no power and just do what the Managing Director asks them to do then might as well not have a board of directors and run the company as a sole proprietorship.

In another instance one Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament voted against a bill that Barisan Nasional supported and he was suspended for six months for this ‘crime’. Yes, in Malaysia it is a crime to vote against your party. In other countries you are allowed to vote against your party and the word they use for this is democracy.

Last week in the UK many LibDem Members of Parliament voted against the increase in university fees although their party voted in support of the increase. One even resigned in protest.

This will never happen in Malaysia in 1,000 years unless we reform the system.

And we have to reform the system by sending people who are not beholden to any political party into Parliament. These Members of Parliament will meet their constituents and discuss pending bills with them and get their feedback. Then, depending on the feedback and wishes of their constituents, they will vote accordingly.

Say the government proposes a 20% valued added tax (VAT) on all goods and services above and beyond the other taxes because the government needs more money (since many do not pay income tax or cheat on their taxes) plus they want to curb spending and force people to save. Certainly the pro-government Members of Parliament will support it while the opposition MPs will oppose it.

The rule is simple. Anything Barisan Nasional supports Pakatan Rakyat will oppose. And anything Pakatan Rakyat supports Barisan Nasional will oppose. Is this what the voters want? The MPs don’t know and don’t really care. It is what the party demands that matters.

Are Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat ready for independent-minded Members of Parliament amongst their ranks? Are the Members of Parliament prepared to meet the voters first before deciding whether to vote in support of or in opposition to any bill?

Members of Parliament are called Wakil Rakyat (People’s Representative). But in reality they function as Wakil Parti (Party Representative). We need our Members of Parliament to become true Wakil Rakyat. And to do that we need more non-party Members of Parliament. These non-party Members of Parliament will listen to the voters and vote in support of a bill based on its merits, not because the party wants it approved.

Is this too much to ask for? Is this an unreasonable request? Is this not how it should be: the voters’ interest comes first?

That in a nutshell is what the MCLM is trying to achieve. And to achieve this we not only need some independent or non-party Members of Parliament but they should also be quality people who know what they are doing and are not treating Parliament as a gelanggang (arena) where one group does battle with another group and tries to outdo each other at the detriment of the voters who sent them into Parliament.


Translated into Chinese at: http://ccliew.blogspot.com/2010/12/%E6%AF%AB%E4%B8%8D%E7%95%99%E6%83%85%E6%88%91%E4%BB%AC%E8%AF%B4%E7%9A%84%E7%8B%AC%E7%AB%8B%E5%9B%BD%E4%BC%9A%E8%AE%AE%E5%91%98%E7%9A%84%E6%84%8F%E4%B9%89.html