REFORMING AND EMPOWERING THE PERAK STATE ASSEMBLY
Good evening to our honourable guests, Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Sdr Lim Guan Eng, YB Dato’ Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, YB Dato’ Ngeh Koo Ham, YB Nga Kor Ming, Dato’ Seri-Dato’ Seri, Datuk-Datuk, Yang Berhormat-Yang Berhormat, ladies and gentlemen.
The topic given to me today is ‘How to Reform and Empower the Perak State Assembly’.
As we all know, State Assembly is the highest authority to make law for the entire state. We elect our representatives to the Assembly to make new laws, to amend existing laws to suit the current needs and to repeal unnecessary and outdated laws from time to time.
This august house must be respected by every individual, from all class of the society. This is important to make sure the smooth running of the state in a democratic manner. Abuses and misconducts in the house will lead to an unhealthy political environment which would also lead to negative impact in the state economically and socially as a whole.
As we all know, the Perak State Assembly is not conducted in an orderly manner especially during the Perak crisis and until now.
An enormous effort need to be plow into in order to reform and empower the Perak State Assembly.
Hereby, in my personal opinion, I have a few suggestions on what we could do to Reform and Empower the Perak State Assembly, if we come into power in the next general Elections:
I strongly believe that the Perak State Assembly should be separated from the Administrative building. As now in Perak, the State Assembly is situated in the State Administrative building. As we all believe in separation of power, it must not merely be a theory but is must be seen functioning. Separation of power means separating the power of legislative, executive and judiciary, but it is also important to separate them physically. For an example, Parliament is an entity by its own and it is not controlled by the Executives directly. Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to remind you about the sitting under the rain tree. Why did that happen? I, as the Speaker, had called for a sitting on 3rd March 2009 and my instruction was challenged by the executive power. The State Secretary had instructed the police to take control over the entire Administrative building and they had locked the entrance to SUK and the State Assembly hall. All the State Assemblymen and I were forcefully barred from entering the State Assembly hall by police. This had resulted in an uncalled for, historical assembly sitting under the tree. We had to assemble under the tree because the Executive took charge of the entire State Administrative building and the State Assembly hall.
Therefore, I suggest that the State Assembly of Perak to be relocated in a separate premise. It will be a relief to the legislative body from the State Executive power.
Assemblymen represents the rakyat in the State Assembly hall, the rakyat must be aware of what is happening in the State Assembly. It is the people’s right to know what is their representatives doing in the State Assembly.
How do we optimize this?
A live-telecast of the sitting through internet is one of the best ways. During Pakatan Rakyat’s governance, live-telecast of the State Assembly sitting was implemented where everyone from every part of the world could view the sitting via internet.
Also, DVDs can be produced and distributed to the public in every part of the state, where they can see and know what are the policies and laws approved at the state level.
The public should be allowed and encouraged to come and observe the State Assembly sitting. This will create a more informed society.
As we all know, the media has no full freedom in our country. Even in the Perak State assembly, the media representatives was treated unfriendly and unfairly. They were not given the freedom to cover the news as it is. Only the government-friendly media were allowed to enter.. The alternative media, such as, electronic media, bloggers, Harakah, Keadilan and Rocket were not at all allowed to cover the state assembly’s sitting. Only a few selected media representatives were placed in the gallery that we call it as ‘Aquarium’. In this ‘Aquarium’, the reporters can view of what is happening in the State Assembly hall through the sound-proof glass and could hear the debate from the microphones installed in the ‘Aquarium’. Even here, the reporters were not able cover accurate news from the sitting hall because the microphones would be purposely switched off. So, the news they cover will be only parts and pieces of what they could here from the microphones and not the précised news. You could check with the reporters who are here today for yourself, of their experiences in the ‘Aquarium’.
Therefore, to enhance the media freedom, I strongly suggest that all media representatives should be given access into the state assembly hall to fully cover the state assembly sitting accurately from inside the hall itself.
At this moment, the State Assembly rarely sits. At times there would be half-day sitting for the entire session. In 2009, the budget was approved within 20 minutes. In 2011, there were not even 10 days sitting all together. This shows the inefficiency of the State Assembly. This is also can be remarked as a waste of public money to conduct the assembly in such a manner. This has tarnished the entire democratic process.
State Assemblymen are not given opportunity to debate or speak out. They are given a very limited time frame, even if they get a chance to debate. But, in most sittings, a huge number of State Assemblymen will not get the chance to speak.
In Parliament, the Opposition Leader is given at least 2 hours to debate on the Budget. But in Perak State Assembly, Dato’ Seri Nizar, was given only 20 minutes to debate on the budget last year.
The State Assembly had seriously failed to uphold the mandate given by the public.
I suggest that the State Assembly sitting should take place, a minimum of 6 sittings per year. Each sitting should be conducted for 5 days and in total, it will be 30 days of sitting per year.
Well, I agree that the number of days of the sittings, by fact is far behind compared to the Parliament’s sitting duration, yet this will increase the quality of the State Assembly itself.
As we know, the Selangor State Assembly has set-up and accomplished a Select Committee called SELCAT. It is a committee to check on the Competency, Accountability and Transparency, with the Speakers chairs SELCAT with a six-member panel consisting of state assemblymen which holds public hearings to investigate state issues.
A similar committee should be set-up in Perak to reform, empower and enhance the State Assembly. The assembly can use this as a tool to investigate any misconduct in the State affairs.
This mechanism will be another check and balance which will promote and strengthen the accountability in the state.
To maintain the nobleness of the State Assembly sitting and its premise, the police and external force should be barred from stepping into the august house.
To refresh your memory, on 7th May 2009, there were hundreds of policemen barged into the Perak State Assembly hall and its surrounding. They had roughened the Pakatan Rakyat State Assemblymen in particular and especially me, as the Speaker. These external alien figures had come up to me at the Speaker’s territory and vigorously had carried me from the Speaker’s chair and hurriedly carried and ran me off to a storeroom where they had locked me up.
That was a filthy and disgracing episode which had never happened in any of the Commonwealth countries. This chapter should never occur again in future and all compulsory paces should be taken to avoid it.
It is a must that police be barred to enter the august house and including its compound.
The State Assemblymen could speak out their mind without fear in the State Assembly sitting and the hall would maintain its dignity without the external figures presence.
I suggest that the State Assembly to employ more Sergeant-at-Arm to protect the august house from trespassers and foreign elements. The Sergeant-at-Arm should receive instructions and orders only from the Speaker and not from other unauthorized parties, as what had happened on 7th May 2009 when the Sergeant-at-Arm did not adhere to the legitimate Speaker’s instructions but from other parties.
Dear honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I strongly believe that the role of the State Assembly should be reviewed and upgraded from time to time. As the suggestions that I had given from my opinions, I trust that we can have a reformed Perak State Assembly and I will be giving these suggestions to the authority for its serious consideration. I am certain that we can achieve an empowered Perak State Assembly if Pakatan Rakyat comes into Power again in Perak.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening.