On Oct 9, 2013, the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat state government has again marked a significant milestone in its efforts to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Malaysia by giving special allowances and privileges amounting to RM8,620 per month to the opposition leader of the Selangor state legislative assembly in accordance with Section 5 of the Members of the Administration and Members of Legislative Assembly (Remuneration) Act 1980, in recognition of the importance of the position of the opposition leader in a democratic government.
This was indeed a breakthrough in upholding the principles of democracy, as well as to advocate the rights and roles of the opposition leader as a crucial component in a democractic government in carrying out his/her role of checks and balance to the existing government.
In view of this, think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) urges Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to emulate the step taken by the Selangor state government in recognising and honouring the position of the opposition leader.
In fact, being a member of the Commonwealth and inherited the British Westminster model of parliamentary system, government should put in more effort in uplifting the status of the opposition leader. In particular, the recognition of the opposition leader is essential to bridge the gap between the remuneration and various forms of allowances received by the opposition leader, cabinet ministers and the speaker of the House of Representatives.
The entitlements of the leader of the opposition should at the least, equal to the cabinet ministers, if not on a par with the prime minister, considering that the opposition leader is a credible prime minister-in-waiting. In our point of view, this is a pivotal step to cultivate and nourish a genuine democracy in the country.
In addition, KPRU opines that the office of the opposition leader should receive allocation for the purpose of employing staffs such as researchers, press officers, executive assistants and so forth to manage with different tasks and affairs in Parliament.
Such provision is important to enabling the office of the opposition leader to obtain sufficient manpower, as well as allocations in performing and carrying out his duties and responsibilities as the opposition leader, as well as an elected representative of the people effectively and smoothly.
Therefore, the coming Budget 2014, which is to be tabled in Parliament on Oct 25 by the prime minister, who is also finance minister, has now becoming the most anticipated if good news to uplift the status of the opposition leader would be announced.
OOI HENG is executive director of think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU).