The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) calls for the functions, powers, resources and independence of the Parliamentary Special Select Committees (PSSCs) to be empowered and given serious attention at the federal federal level as a check and balance instrument to the Government and its agencies. This matter is also included in the effort to elevate the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature significantly in a healthy democracy.
BERSIH 2.0 today launched a research report entitled “Parliamentary Select Committee Reforms”. This report is commissioned by BERSIH 2.0 and written by Dr Muhammad Sayuti Hassan & Sahanah Kathirvelu. This research report, among others, identifies the marginalisation of Opposition and backbencher MPs in the policy and law-making process in Parliament. Power is too concentrated on the Executive, opportunities to contribute are limited and less involved in PSSCs. For example 9/10 the PSSCs of the Dewan Rakyat are chaired by backbenchers.
Therefore, we urge the administration of the new Government and the Parliament of Malaysia to take responsibility and be committed to reforming the Parliament institution as well as empowering the PSSCs. The following are the proposed reforms by BERSIH 2.0 as contained in our latest research paper such as:
- Amendments to the Standing Orders to expand the powers of PSSCs, improve the appointment process, be given flexibility of meetings, the responsibility of the Executive to provide feedback on the findings of PSSCs, review the composition of PSSCs members and live broadcast of activities carried out by PSSCs.
- Strengthen the role and power of PSSCs to obtain evidence and conduct its own inquiries and investigations.
- Revisit the procedure for the appointment of PSSCs members so that it is balanced and proportional to the overall representation in the Houses. It is also suggested that members be selected through the nomination process and members are allowed to choose their own PSSCs according to their interests and expertise.
- Institutionalise the Opposition by recognising the Leader of the Opposition as equivalent to a Cabinet Minister.
- Conduct live broadcasts of all PSSCs works for public viewing to build public trust and confidence in the Parliament institution.
- Give flexibility to PSSCs to determine its own form of meetings which is not limited only in the premise of Parliament. Moreover, it is a need during the current pandemic to be given the facility to hold meetings in virtual or hybrid mode.
- To increase the number of PSSCs in both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara based on specific needs as well as to fill the monitoring gap on the current ministries that are not monitored.
- Allocate adequate budget allocation to ensure its efficient functioning and smooth operation. The Chairman of PSSCs should be given a separate allowance under the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act 1980.
- Provide sufficient manpower by expanding the size of the PSSCs secretariats including researchers, experts, clerks and support staff. At least 2 researchers are allocated for each PSC.
- Provide continuous and periodic training to all Members of Parliament and the PSSCs secretariats on best practices and the latest developments related to Parliamentary institutions.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0