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Can we expect a new and better Parliament?

  • Malaysians should demand more meaningful roles for their elected representatives.

By Khoo Ying Hooi

The new parliament session of the 2018-2023 - the first under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will convene next Monday July 16. Can we be hopeful for this parliament session to discuss important matters concerning our country in a civilized and mature manner with robust debates? Can we expect the parliamentarians where a grand total of 90 of them whom will make their first debut to look beyond partisan lines in putting forward their proposals and debates?

Or will this parliament session just be same like the previous sessions that were often filled with emotional politicking, name-calling, and to a large extent, rude and non-substantive debates?

As part of the massive overhaul of the Prime Minister's Department, some agencies are now report directly to Parliament. Among the agencies include the Election Commission, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Public Service Commission, Education Service Commission and Judicial Appointments Commission.

With such move, it is hopeful that there will be more rooms for the parliamentarians from both sides to debate on these commissions’ recommendations and proposals objectively and free from political interference, and to ensure that the people’s interests are upheld.

July 16 will be a day for all of us to remember due to many reasons. This time around, the parliament landscape will be very different not only this is the first time that we witnessed the change of government but also we will be seeing veteran parliamentarians alongside with many young parliamentarians, in which would hopefully be able to provide some robust debates on issues concerning the country.

While the opening session of parliament will be primarily driven by the reform agenda, the first indication of whether Barisan Nasional (BN) and PH have grown beyond the partisan line would be the expected discussions in the parliament debates. What’s really crucial is that people want them to govern and perform by working together and find common ground on key issues that concerning to the people.

Following the manifestos of the PH during the GE14 campaign period, there are high hopes from the people to hear from these parliamentarians to continue what they have pledged and move the country forward.

The old practices during the BN time require urgent reforms and one of the important steps is on parliamentary reform. For instance, to utilise more parliamentary select committees on key issues so that there can allow for more spaces to have a more comprehensive proposals to avoid any form of hasty decision. In certain issues, the committees should also involve participation by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and at least, to also involve the public opinion.

Next crucial thing is the checks and balances. It is important so to keep the government in power from being inefficient. With the opening of democracy space and exposes to vulnerability, absence of checks and balances could endanger the reform process. Having said that, a strong opposition is as important as a strong government. It helps to provide rooms for questioning and assessing policies and programmers objectively.

There are occasions when the opposition agrees with the government. For instance, if the solution proposed by the government is a good initiative that can benefit the people, then it’s only natural for the opposition to agree and at the same time, act constructively to hold the government to account if they do not deliver their promises.

Malaysians should demand more meaningful roles for their elected representatives, who should be made to do substantive work. For this first parliament session, I truly hope that we can witness a fruitful and result-oriented session, as we have given the responsibility to these parliamentarians to run the government.

(Khoo Ying Hooi is Universiti Malaya Senior Lecturer)

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