Statement from Seed Community for a Professional Parliament: The Parliament Must Extend the Lifespan of 9 Parliamentary Special Select Committees

We, the undersigned civil society groups, call on the Dewan Rakyat to extend the lifespan of nine (9) Parliamentary Special Select Committees (PSSCs) until the end of 14th Parliament.

These nine PSSCs’ terms would stand to expire on 10 November 2022, as their establishment was done through a motion passed in Dewan Rakyat on 11 November 2020, which gave them a two-year tenure.

We stress that the extension should take place in the first week of the parliamentary meeting to allow the PSSCs to plan their works ahead beyond 10 November 2022. While their mandate would stop automatically when election is called, their work should not be obstructed by the election guessing game.

We further point out, every ministry should be scrutinised by at least one parliamentary committee and such committees should be permanent (called “standing”) instead of temporary (called “special”) as the current ones are.

Such ministry-based committees (called “Departmental Committees” in the UK) can enhance both transparency and accountability of the ministries as well as quality of law and policy-making.

The nine PSSCs which may have their mandate ended in less than two months are those in-charge of (1) Fundamental Liberty and Constitutional Rights, (2) Finance and Economy, (3) Security, (4) Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department, (5) Agriculture and Domestic Trade, (6) Infrastructural Development, (7) Education, (8) Women and Children Affairs and Social Development and (9) Health, Science and Innovation.

We call upon the 10 MPs sitting on the Steering Committee of the Memorandum of Understanding on Transformation and Political Stability (MoU) to ensure a motion is passed to extend the tenure of these nine PSSCs. If these nine PSSCs are unintentionally disbanded because a motion is not passed in time, item 3.2 on the MoU’s Schedule on expanding parliamentary committees would be violated in spirit.

The Dewan Rakyat has 10 PSSCs. The last one, the PSSC on International Relations, was formed in October 2021 and its tenure would not expire before the Parliament expires on 15 July 2023.

We point out, there are 9 ministerial portfolios that are left unscrutinised by any PSSC, including environment, human resources, natural resources and national unity. The government’s commitment to promote sustainable development goals (SDGs) by setting up SDG centre is not credible when there is not even a PSSC on SDG, environmental protection or social inclusion (wider than women and children affairs).

Further, PSSCs are tasked with several ministries, preventing them from optimal functioning. The worst was the PSSC on Infrastructural Development that covered Public Works, Transportation, Rural Development, and Housing and Local Authorities. There should be one PSSC for each of these important Ministries.

The Election Commission (EC) should also be made answerable to a PSSC on Electoral Matters, instead of the Prime Minister’s Department.

We urge the MoU Steering Committee to honour the three unfulfilled promises that are long overdue: the constitutional amendment to establish a ten-year tenure limit on Prime Minister (item 2.3), the passing of Parliamentary Service Act (PSA) (item 3.1) and amendment to the Parliamentary Standing Orders (item 3.4).

To ensure the Parliament proceedings to be conducted orderly and effectively (teratur dan berkesan), the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders must be amended to set up standing departmental committees for all ministries and key agencies.

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.

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Signed by:

  1. The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (BERSIH)
  2. ENGAGE Network
  3. WISDOM Foundation4.
  4. Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)
  5. Bait Al-Amanah
  6. Persatuan Pengundi Muda (Undi18)
  7. Institute for Political Reform and Democracy (REFORM)