The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) welcomes the reshuffle of the Parliamentary Select Committees (PSC) where the number of members in each PSC has been increased to nine members and the ratio between government and opposition elected representatives has been adjusted to 5:4, which reflects the strengths of ruling and opposition parties in Parliament.
The nine PSCs established are on Fundamental Liberty and Constitutional Rights, Finance and Economy, Security, Agencies Under the Prime Minister’s Department, Agriculture and Domestic Trade, Infrastructure Development, Education, Women and Children Affairs and Social Development, and Health, Science And Innovation.
We also welcome the proposal to establish a new PSC on International Affairs and we hope this will enhance Parliamentary oversight on Malaysia’s rights and responsibilities under international law and treaties signed by the government, including issues such as climate change and others.
BERSIH 2.0 calls for the amendment of Standing Order to establish a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Election Matters, such as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to provide oversight to independent Election Commission (EC) and issues related to elections, which does not fall under the jurisdiction of any ministry. The establishment of a Standing Committee on Election Matters is in particularly important now to deal with organising elections when the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging and there are five elections (2 state elections and 3 by-elections) that are still pending.
The reason why there is a need for a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Election Matters is because the electoral system is integral to our political system and a lot of reforms need to be explored and implemented. If it is only established as a PSC, it can easily be dissolved and removed, as what happened to PSC on Election Matters established by the Dewan Rakyat in 2019 under the leadership of former Yang di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat Tan Sri Mohd Ariff bin Yusof after the Sheraton Move.
We would also like to reiterate our suggestion in 2019 where the Standing Committee on Election Matters should be chaired by elected representatives from the opposition and comprised of elected representatives who are committed to clean and fair elections with expertise on election matters.
The mandate of Standing Committee on Election must include:
- Establish an independent Nomination Committee that will nominate candidates for EC Commissioners to the Prime Minister whenever there is a vacancy, which the Prime Minister will carry forward to be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
- Receive, review and debate the annual report from the EC, including special reports after the General Election or By-Election, before the report is presented in the Dewan Rakyat with comments of the Standing Committee.
- To scrutinise EC’s financial and expenditure reports including those for general elections and by-elections.
- To conduct an inquiry on any matters related to elections and when necessary, has the power to subpoena witnesses to give testimony and provide evidence in relation to the issues. These investigations should also be made public and be televised or broadcast on parliamentary websites.
- To review any law and amendment to the election law before it is tabled and debated in parliament by engaging with all stakeholders, especially political parties and civil society organizations.
- Calling on the EC to answer questions in Parliament regarding the administration of the EC and the management of election processes instead of being answered by a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to ensure that the EC is truly independent of the Executive.
- To provide recommendations for electoral reform, practice and law.
- To engage with local or foreign experts for a third opinion on issues related to electoral system, implementation and electoral law.
We also call on the government to provide a more detailed explanation of the terms of reference of these nine PSCs so that the public is informed about the scope of oversight of each PSCs and to ensure that no ministry is exempted from the oversight of the PSC.s
The Standing Orders in relation to the PSCs also need to be amended and adequate human and financial resources also need to be provided so that all PSCs can function effectively and meaningfully. BERSIH 2.0 is ready to assist and provide cooperation to the government and Parliament on these reforms.
Elections is one of the key pillars of democracy and it is very important to ensure elections are conducted in a transparent, clean and fair manner to ensure political competition in Malaysia is sustained in a healthy, mature, progressive and democratic environment.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0