- We, the undersigned civil society groups warmly welcome the proposed formation of “The Multi-Partisan Caucus of Parliamentary and Democracy Reforms” by the Pengerang MP, Dato ‘Sri Azalina Othman Said on September 1, in efforts to strengthen the institution of Parliament as a check and balance body for the Executive’s governance, as well as to uphold parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
- We believe that Dato ‘Sri Azalina Othman Said’s proposal is in line with the spirit of the institutional improvement package offered by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin before he resigned which, among others, included parliamentary reform by limiting the Prime Minister’s term, increasing the number of Parliamentary Select Committees, half of the Parliamentary Select Committees are chaired by opposition MPs and a more inclusive bill consultation process prior to tabling in the Parliament.
- We also welcome the initiative taken by the new Prime Minister Dato ’Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to meet with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Mohammad Sabu and Lim Guan Eng on August 25 to achieve much needed cross-party cooperation at present. The joint statement of the four political leaders also agreed to strengthen the function of the Parliament and institutional reforms.
- These developments show that parliamentary reform is an agenda that has broad cross-party support and the Caucus proposal by Dato ’Sri Azalina Othman Said is very timely. Therefore, we call on the new administration led by Dato ‘Sri Ismail Sabri and Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi as the minister responsible for the Parliamentary affairs to be committed to the improvement of institution of Parliament and provide resource support and the government recognition to this Caucus with the participation of MPs from ruling parties.
- We propose that this Caucus be mandated to study matters relating to Parliamentary reforms in two main aspects and to produce proposals for reforms for the consideration of Parliament and the Government.
- The first aspect is related to the reforms in terms of structure and procedures of Parliament that need to be implemented in the next sittings of Parliament, namely increasing the number of Parliamentary Select Committees (PSCs) so that all ministries are under parliamentary oversight, improving the composition of the Committee to reflect the strength of each party in Parliament, recognizing Opposition Leader equivalent to ministerial status, imposing a minimum number of days between the First Reading and Second Reading of bills, introducing clear procedures in the rules for MPs to bring motion of confidence and no-confidence to take precedence, reviewing the Standing Orders to restore the right of members of the House to handle the agenda and business of the House as well as equal rights to ministers and non-ministerial MPs, to introduce Private Members’ Day and Time, the agenda of public petitions to be debated by Parliament, extension of Parliamentary sitting time and introducing a Code of Ethics for Parliamentary staff.
- The second aspect that needs to be studied by this Caucus is the institutional reforms with a clear action plan so that the implementation of the plan can be carried out before the next general election. This involves the enactment of a Parliamentary Service Act and an act to regulate party hopping, the introduction of a Cabinet Manual regulating the Executive and civil service during elections and the appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister, as well to ensure distribution of constituency development funds is fair and equitable to MPs regardless of political affiliation.
- We also call on all opposition parties to support this Caucus by sending their representatives so that the spirit of cross-party cooperation in improving the institution of Parliament is continued and strengthened. The spirit of cross-party and multi-stakeholder cooperation needs to take place immediately by setting aside political and personal interests.
- We also believe that this Caucus will assist the role of the Speakers of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara in efforts to improve the institution of Parliament. We urge the Speakers of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to recognize this Caucus and provide resources and space for this Caucus to carry out its mandate.
- We hope that the new leadership will bring the institution of Parliament to a new phase that is more independent, professional and effective in carrying out its functions whether through Parliamentary sittings or Parliamentary Committees. The role of the backbencher elected representatives from the Government and the Opposition, including the rakyat as key stakeholders should be involved and highlighted in the national policy-making process.
This statement is initiated by the Seed Community for a Professional Parliament, a network of individuals active in civil society organisations, think tanks and academia working towards a professional Parliament that facilitates healthy policy competition between parties.
- Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)
- Persatuan Pengundi Muda (UNDI18)
- Institute for Political Reform and Democracy (REFORM)
- Bait Al-Amanah
- Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)