Kit Siang says Razak curbed Parliament

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was responsible for most of the restrictions on parliamentary democracy, claimed Lim Kit Siang in his biography released last weekend.

The DAP parliamentary leader said in the book that the father of current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had curbed debate in Parliament when he was head of government by amending the standing orders.

“Most of the restrictions on parliamentary procedures that I mentioned earlier… were made during Razak’s time,” he said of the country’s prime minister from 1970 to 1976.

“Even after 2008, despite the huge number of opposition members, they can still ride roughshod over us as long as they have a simple majority. The spirit of parliamentary democracy is very weak,” he said, referring to the record 81 opposition MPs after the general election.

MPs were at first allowed to send as many questions as they wanted and to ask for leave for private member’s (non-government) Bills which allowed for debate, he said in academician Ooi Kee Beng’s “The Right to Differ”.

But the veteran politician said that the standing orders were amended, limiting questions to 20 and then 10 per MP for each sitting while private member’s Bills were relegated behind government business and, in practice, never reached.

“So that procedure became a dead letter,” said the veteran politician.

Lim said that parliamentary practice had eroded since Malaysia’s founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman was prime minister and who had instituted the office of Opposition Leader before the 1969 general election.

“I wonder if that institution would have been there otherwise. We see how although that position continues to exist, the person holding the position is not allowed to play any important role in terms of staffing, parliamentary procedures, etc.