Friday, May 02, 2008

The new parliament,historic but will it be any different?

Can our MPs rise up to fulfill their obligation?

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, in his address at the opening of the 12th Parliament, called on Members of Parliament (MPs) to use the highest legislative body to further the interests of the people and not use the House for their individual political gains. This warning set the tone of the seriousness of the current parliamentary session that promises to be a very lively one with 99 new members eagerly waiting to get into action. Unfortunately our MPs did exactly what the King advised them not to.

The 12th parliament is a historic one in many ways. It is the first time the Barisan National(BN) does not have the 2/3 majority in the 222-member august house. It the first time there is a record number of 82 opposition parliamentarians. It is the first time all three opposition parties have formed a united coalition, the Pakatan Rakyat, to take on the BN. It is also the first time the Opposition Leader comes from the fairer sex. Above all it is the first time the opposition coalition is claiming to mount a serious challenge to the ruling party by announcing its readiness to form the next federal government.

These new changes which were beyond the imagination Malaysians just a few months ago have become a reality due to the will of the people. The people’s will expressed on March 8 has resulted in the formation of the Pakatan Rakyat that appears to pave the way for the creation of a two-party system of parliamentary democracy. These are positive changes that augur well for the future of the nation.

Well the campaign and elections are over and its time to get down to serious work. The people have voted an ideally balanced parliament with 140 members from BN and 82 from Pakatan.Although the BN does not have a 2/3 majority, it has enough power to formulate the right policies that benefit the rakyat.At the same time a stronger opposition should ensure the ruling party does not abuse the power vested on them.

With this scenario, it is time for all parties to compete with one another to serve the people better. Political parties may differ in their ideologies but should be united in their ideals – working for the rakyat.They can differ in the ways they choose to serve the people but should not differ on whether or not to serve them. Politics of hate and discrimination of the past should make way for politics of cooperation for the common good of all the people.

They must ensure the reforms promised related to the judiciary, fighting corruption and press freedom are carried out without delay. Other areas that need serious attention are the escalating cost of living, abolishment of repressive laws, promoting greater harmony among the various races and religions, developing a more people-oriented civil service and police and adopting a fairer socio-economic system based solely on merit, not race, creed or political ideology.

Parliamentarians regardless of their political ideology must quickly get together to address and implement these reforms demanded by the people who sent them there. The voters have been awakened and are watching closely the performance of their wakil rakyats.

This would be made easier with the live telecast of the parliamentary proceedings. Unfortunately the Minister of Information is has suggested to stop this live telecast basing on the behaviour of MPs on the first day of parliamentary session. It would be unfair to judge just after 30minutes of the live telecast. Most MPs and the people are in favour of such telecast and that is the only way the voters can see for themselves the performance of their MPs.The MPs must be made accountable to their electorates and there is no better and effective way to do that than subjecting them to scrutinizing eyes of the people.

The people are more well-informed these days and they expect a high level of competence, integrity and morality from the legislators in exercising their duties in parliament. Can our legislators rise up to the occasion and live up to their oaths of office? Our wakil rakyats may have rules and regulations to guide and check them but the most important compelling force should be their commitment to their constituents.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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