Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vote for the independence of our parliament

This article has earlier appeared in the Beritadaily.com on 27/1/2017

The scandal surrounding the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the case of a RM2.6 billion deposit found in the personal account of Prime Minister Najib Razak have not only become local headlines but have also gained international attention.

This is because this nation has become Umno’s Malaysia where everyone must say yes and bow respectfully to the Umno president.

Our nation’s three major organs – the executives, parliament and the judiciary system – are all right under his thumb. This is why he managed to bulldoze through many oppressive laws for use against his critics and opponents in order to stay in power.

In Malaysia, the position of the prime minister has become too powerful. Checks and balances on him are currently non-existent because the institutions themselves have made him so.

As for our parliamentary system, no doubt there are some checks and balances on matters pertaining to governance and budgeting, but not as far as delving into the prime minister’s powers, or into the Prime Minister’s Department.

So, how do our members of parliament ensure that the prime minister rules with integrity and that he himself is corruption free? The answer is none, and if you do go any further, prison may await you.

Again, the mother of all corruptions and power abuses in the government is that there is no oversight mechanism to check the prime minister’s conduct in office under the current parliamentary system.

In this case, as long as Najib is still the prime minister, he is immune from any kind of public inquiries.

It is time for us to have in place a mechanism of “decoronation” of a sitting head of government on suspicion of corruption, power abuse or any other kind of scandals. How does Malaysia handle such a thing?

Look at how other nations are dealing with their scandalous leaders. How should we deal with it in the future?

Such measures, mechanisms or actions cannot be seen as unconstitutional because these efforts are part of the democratic practice where the people in particular possess the right to decide who should govern the nation, be it through general elections, parliamentary votes or peaceful street rallies.

Parliamentary scrutiny lacking

Our parliamentary system today still lacks the power to scrutinise the conduct and interests of the prime minister as well as his cabinet ministers.

In many parliament sessions, the prime minister and cabinet ministers were allowed to stay away to attend other “important functions” of their choice, a situation which rendered ineffective the question-and-debate sessions on governance and other crucial matters.

The rubber stamp nature of our legislature has indeed paved the way for top leaders to continue with their wayward ways without control, and if there are exposures, such information would be quickly suppressed.

To make matters worse, the supposedly “independent” investigating agencies were placed under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, which clearly shows that it is impossible for these agencies to act without fear or favour.

Parliament and people should play their role

However, the only avenue left for the nation to exert some kind of pressure on the prime minister pertaining to his conduct is still parliament, even if its checks and balances suffer from a lack of power.

Members of parliament from both sides of the political divide need to be especially mature in such a situation where they should carry out their responsibilities based on conscience, and not along their party lines.

The Dewan Rakyat Speaker had promised to carry out various parliamentary reforms he listed out last year. He also threatened to resign if these reforms were unsuccessful.

Where is he now? Why has he become voiceless recently? What more excuses could he give now that the deadline he set for his parliamentary reform initiative has passed?

So what should we, as the people of Malaysia, do? For starters, our priority should be for the good of the nation, and not for any political parties.

By giving an overwhelming majority to the ruling party will not necessarily make things move. It will not ensure a clean and efficient government of the day. Instead, it will only allow politicians from the party to become more powerful and continue with their power abuse and corruption.

We also need a strong opposition so that we can force it to move for more parliamentary reforms to develop stronger institutions and select committees to oversee both the prime minister and his government’s conduct.

In a nutshell, we should put our nation above any political party. Our mind should Merdeka.