Friday, November 14, 2008

A boost for democracy

Recognizing the role of the opposition

The Penang state legislative assembly’s move to create the official position of a state Opposition Leader is an encouraging move that augurs well for the development of democracy. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng should be commended for such a positive move to recognize the importance of the role of the Opposition.

As the opposition at state level in Penang, the Barisan Nasional (BN) must be represented in all the decision-making processes that involve the expenditure of public funds. The BN representatives must accept their role as an effective opposition to contribute ideas and provide the check and balance for the Pakatan Rakyat(PR) state government. Without an effective Opposition, there is no democracy.

Establishing the post for Oppostion Leader and paying him allowances alone is not enough. It is more important to recognize and appreciate his contributions and according him the rightful status he deserves by the ruling party and the government.

In a democratic system of government, both the ruling party and the opposition have equal roles in their service to the rakyat. While the former formulates and implement policies for the rakyat, the latter has an equally vital role to contribute ideas and provide a check and balance to prevent power abuse. If either of them fails in their duty, they would be neglecting their duties towards the rakyat.

It is sad that the Opposition in our country is not accorded its rightful place in the administration of the country unlike those in first world democracies. Very often our opposition MPs and assemblymen are treated with animosity and their contributions totally ignored. They are at times harassed for carrying out their rightful duties as legitimate representatives of the people.

Such a hostile attitude towards the opposition is displayed daily in our parliament where opposition proposals are ignored by those from the ruling party. Even the Speaker who is to be neutral is never seen to be so. We have yet to witness the speaker allowing the debate of a single motion that moved by the Opposition.

It is time that our for the ruling party to accept the opposition MPs as equal and are treat them with decorum, as they are also the representatives of the people. Disregarding the opposition would mean showing disrespect to the people who elected them. The ruling party should not be just a party for its supporters but for all including those who did not vote for them.

There is a need for closer cooperation between the ruling party and the opposition if we want a first world parliamentary system. Each should treat the other as comrades, with mutual respect, honor and civility not hostility and animosity. They should have a common aim, although they may differ in the way they carry it out, to serve to the people who have voted them to the fullest without fear or favor.

It is envious to see the smooth, friendly and civil way of power transfer between the present and incoming presidents in the US. Our parliamentarians have an important lesson to learn from their counterparts there if they want to transform our own parliamentary system to be at par with them and other first world democracies.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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