Malaysiakini Letter

Time to get rid of the Dewan Negara

Saad Hashim  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER| Since gaining Independence in 1957, Malaya and then Malaysia, has been practising the so-called Westminster-type of democracy but in the last 60 years, the system has been changed beyond recognition. So also its legal and judicial systems.

What we have now are only skeletons of this British legacy that we have adopted, especially our Federal Constitution that was written by the so-called foreign experts, many a time without sufficient consultation with the Malayan (Malaysian) people.

And over the years, every prime minister has made new laws and changed old ones, that are far from enhancing quality and transparency. For instance, in the Dewan Rakyat there is hardly time for prime minister questions time that which remains robust like we are seeing in the British and Australian parliaments.

Next, there is hardly any EDMs or early day motions, submitted by the MPs to show their concern on local and international issues because not all questions can be in the prime minister questions time.

In our judiciary, we have already got rid of the jury system and the appeal to the judicial committee of the House of Lords or the Privy Council (PC).
I agree that the appeal to the PC may no longer be necessary, but the jury system must be revived in the light of some decisions by some judges which have raised a lot of eyebrows.

The jury system or this trial by your peers will certainly enhance the integrity of our judicial system because our people have become more and more educated and then will do the job very well which will then eliminate all the suspicions on the judges and senior magistrates.

In so far as the legislative arm of the government, I would suggest we follow the example of Singapore, New Zealand and many other countries by having a one-house system. Let us get rid of the Upper House. Up to the Dewan Negara, it is costing us a lot of money, which we now can't afford anymore.

In the beginning, the Dewan Negara used to be the house of senior politicians and community leaders. What do we have now? BN (which used to be the ruling party) was using the Dewan Negara by filling it up with young politicians who were not selected to stand for elections. Quite a mockery of the Westminster democracy.

In the UK, members of the House of Lords (the Upper House) are hereditary lords and senior politicians who were made lords as well as senior judges (who made up the privy council).

However, under the one-house system, we could make our democracy very robust by setting up House Committees like the American House or Senate Committee on every sector of government administration which will have the powers to subpoena people like the governor of Bank Negara, etc to give regular reports on their agencies' performance. Which means our parliamentarians should work full-time.

The new prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad could also make the following changes, which I think will not only result in big savings in the budget but will also increase the worldview of our country.

Another way of saving money is to abolish the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information and Media. In this of Age of the Internet, these two ministries have become quite redundant.

All the information is now available via the Internet and the new media.
If the government is transparent, I am sure the truth will take care of itself. No need for Anti-Fake News Law and all that.

At the same time, I would urge the government to revive the print media at the national level as well as the local level to cater for the increasing number of people who are quite fed-up with the new media and would rather sit down and read a good newspaper.

If Mahathir could go even further, he can also decentralise the police service i.e. the state police, the city police and the federal police to handle serious crimes like the FBI in the US.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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