How should we judge a government?

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience - Mark Twain

Why we should be against censorship in a court of law: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no
responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options
I suggest government... because nobody has ever been caught.

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?
Corruption is so prevalent it affects English language?

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
We need better tools... to cover up mega corruptions.

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Reality check: Our so-called parliamentary democracy is like having a car which does not work?

From write2rest blogsite:

Our constitution does not include the word ‘democracy.’ So why is “strengthen parliamentary democracy” included in the demands of Bersih 5?

According to

parliamentary democracy is a form of government where voters elect the parliament, which then forms the government. The party with the most votes picks the leader of the government. Prime ministers are beholden both to the people and the parliament.

Malaysia only somewhat fits that description.

Why? Negatively, because Parliament is made up of the Agung, an Upper House (“senate”) and a Lower House (“parliament”) – and only members of the lower house are elected by voters. Positively, because our government is formed by those who are elected to the lower house (though augmented by non-elected senators).

However, our law does recognize that we are a parliamentary democracy. The best known example of this is found in Section 124B of the Penal Code:

Whoever, by any means, directly or indirectly, commits an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years.

This is not the place to discuss that odious law. If you want to know more, you can read this excellent discussion by the Bar Council, issued on the occasion of 17 arrests in 2015.

So, we may say correctly that Malaysia practices parliamentary democracy because one of the three members of our law-making triumvirate has members elected by voters, and the term “parliamentary democracy” has a place in our laws.

What aspects of a parliamentary democracy may make it fake rather than real? 

That’s an important question because it’s the difference between having a car and having a car which works. For instance, from 1969 to 1971 we had a parliament which didn’t meet because it was suspended through the enactment of an emergency. MPs were in prison! During that period we had a non-functioning parliamentary democracy.

There are many things which make our parliament more like an engine-less car than a car which does productive work. I’ll just list five.

First, our Parliament doesn’t meet often enough. The parliaments of Australia and the UK sit for at least 150 days a year. For our parliament, MP Liew Chin Tong has published the number of sitting days for the period 2008-2015. The range is 51 days (in 2013) to 83 days (in 2010), giving an average of 67 days/year over 8 years. This means MPs in Australia and UK attend parliament more than twice as often as our MPs.

Second, our backbenchers don’t scrutinize the cabinet. Cabinet is made up of the PM, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Backbenchers are ruling party MPs who are not in the cabinet. In Malaysia, parties offer candidacy solely as a “reward” for loyalty to their party leaders and keeping the grassroots quiet. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. The work of parliament is to review, monitor and supervise the cabinet and public agencies. Loyalty is important, but so is competence. We need better candidates.

Third, most backbenchers and opposition MPs do hardly any parliamentary work. In Taiwan, every MP is required to be a member of a standing committee. Standing committees oversee ministries. Ministers and deputy ministers are not allowed to be members of the committees. Instead, standing committees can summon Ministers, department heads and others to attend hearings to answer questions on policy and administration. The hearings are often public. Select committees also review and refine laws and policies before they are debated in the main chamber. Aside from committees which deal with internal matters like discipline and membership, our parliament has only one standing committee: the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – which did such a pathetic job reviewing 1MDB compared to the work of the Department of Justice, USA.

Fourth, the quality of debate in parliament is terrible. There isn’t enough time for MPs to digest the laws they have to debate and vote on because they are only given materials to read at the very last minute. This means they not only don’t have time to read the bulky materials, they also don’t have time to get local data, get feedback from their constituents and also learn how similar matters are addressed in other nations. This is why parliament not only never gets through the agenda for each sitting, but also has to “extend the clock” often and sometimes debate till 5 in the morning.

Fifth, the government does not treat opposition MPs with respect. Opposition MPs have hardly any office space in parliament and their leader isn’t treated with dignity at official functions – although she represents the side of the house which got more of the popular vote than the government (51% vs 47%). A functioning parliament will allow time for opposition business – so that opposition MPs can truly represent the people who voted for them because they thought these were the better candidates.

Finally, we note that RM18billion or 7.6% of the national budget for 2016 is assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office! This, a feature of Presidential systems, is the best proof that our parliament is a fake.

We need to strengthen parliamentary democracy. Jom Bersih!


No comments: