Many people may have forgotten the functions and responsibilities of legislative assemblies because these assemblies have today been reduced to places for political power wrestling.
Legislative assemblies are being ignored and forgotten by people over the time, and this could be traced back to the change of administration in Perak on February 4, 2009.
Three Pakatan Rakyat reps quit their parties and became BN-friendly independent assemblymen. The crossover sent the Pakatan state government tumbling down, paving the way for BN to form a new state government.
March 3, BN’s menteri besar Zambry Abdul Kadir barred Pakatan’s state assembly speaker V Sivakumar from convening the state assembly sitting. Sivakumar and 27 Pakatan reps were barred from entering the state secretariat. They later held a meeting under a tree, and a commemorative plaque was placed under this “Democracy Tree”.
May 7, it was total chaos when the Perak state assembly sitting resumed. Sivakumar was trying to expel Zambry, six state excos and three independent reps but was foiled by a human wall erected by BN reps, while deputy speaker Hee Yit Foong presided over the meeting from her seat to nominate R Ganesan as the new speaker.
Along the way, there were physical jostles, pushings and pepper spraying. Sivakumar was subsequently lifted out of the assembly hall in his seat. Some 69 people were arrested on the day, including ten elected reps hailing from other states.
The incident marked the darkest day in Malaysian legislature’s history, but unfortunately our elected reps on both sides of the divide have not picked up a lesson from the event to lift the image of the country’s legislature, but have instead continued with their fights.
On May 12 this year, the Sarawak state assembly passed the motion to disqualify DAP’s Pujut assemblyman Ting Tiong Choon with a 70-10 vote.
However, the Kuching High Court on June 17 overturned the state assembly’s decision and reinstated Ting as Pujut assemblyman.
The High Court also ruled that the state assembly had no right to disqualify any elected representative.
State assemblymen are elected by voters in an election. The voters’ right to choose will be denied if the state assembly can throw out any rival assemblyman through an advantage of numbers.
The recently resumed Dewan Rakyat sitting was not without its share of unpleasant incidents, too.
On the first day of sitting, the opposition were apparently frustrated by the Speaker’s decision to reject questions on the 1MDB scandal, and a war of words ensued.
In a press conference on July 27, Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia insisted that his decision was in line with standing orders because the Parliament was not “a market for anyone to discuss anything”.
Unhappy with the Speaker’s decision to reject 1MDB-related questions, PKR’s MP for PJ Selatan Hee Loy Sian filed a suit at the High Court on August 2 to seek to nullify Pandikar’s decision.
When he chaired the sitting on the same afternoon, Pandikar joked that he could not make any decision in the Parliament sitting, as he was being restricted by the court.
The question now is: can a member of Parliament sue the Speaker in court?
Minister in the PM’s department in charge of parliamentary affairs Azalina Othman said according to Article 63(1) of the Federal Constitution, validity of any proceedings in the Parliament or any parliamentary committee could not be questioned in court.
However, Hee Loy Sian’s lawyer N Surendran insisted that Section 8 of the Federal Constitution protects the right of citizens to settle disputes through legal means.
Ironically, Zambry had prior to this brought the decision of banning Sivakumar from state assembly to the Federal Court, which later ruled that the ban was unlawful.
The principal function of the legislative assembly is to enact laws and safeguard the interest of the nation and people. Unfortunately this functionality is being eroded. For example, the private member’s bill on RUU355 amendment continues to dominate the parliamentary sittings, while the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill.2016 aimed at resolving the child conversion issue has met with one after another obstacle, such that the crucial Clause 88A has to be excluded and retabled for first reading.
It’s sad that the legislative assembly has been reduced to a circus for power wrestling. For all these years we have seen one after another drama playing on, forcing the course of democracy in this country to recede and all Malaysians are made to bear the cost as a consequence.