LETTER | G25’s letter titled “Parliamentary reforms vital for checks and balances” is yet another call for the Parliamentary Service Bill to be tabled and passed by Parliament to restore the dignity of the institution.
The bill should have been ready to be tabled for some time now. Two previous governments under two different prime ministers have said that such a bill was ready.
In January 2020, the Pakatan Harapan government announced that it was ready to table the Parliament Service Bill 2020 in March which would restore the autonomy of Parliament.
In an interview, then Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming said the bill would allow the legislature to be removed from the Prime Minister's Department and, to a large extent, lead to a separation of powers as Parliament becomes an independent entity.
If passed, the act would also allow Parliament to have its own budget and hire staff, rights which were repealed in 1993.
Already much-anticipated since restoring the dignity of Parliament was Promise No 16 in Harapan manifesto 2018, the bill would have been “the mother of all Parliament reforms for the March sitting”.
But it wasn’t to be when the mother of all political moves – the Sheraton Move – oversaw the ousting of the elected Harapan government.
If the change of government would put to end the mother of all Parliament reforms, it didn't look that way. Much to the credit of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government though, then de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan was reported in November 2020 to have said that the Parliament Service Bill was ready.
"The draft of the Parliament Service Bill has been prepared. The government is fine-tuning and reviewing the establishment of Parliament Service Commission," said Takiyuddin in a parliamentary reply.
Takiyuddin was responding to a question by Nga himself, who had asked when the bill would be tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat. Takiyuddin did not indicate any date.
So, it is curious that Takiyuddin’s successor Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar should say on Friday that he would submit to the cabinet a report on proposals to modernise Malaysia’s Parliament, with one of the proposals being the tabling of the Parliamentary Service Bill “to give independence to Parliament”.
Such a bill was already conceived as early as January 2020, if not earlier, by the Harapan government. Ten months later, the PN government, through its de facto law minister, also said that such a bill was ready.
The current government has been said to be the PN government.
As such, the Parliamentary Service Bill should be ready to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.
If any fine-tuning is needed, it is suggested that the drafters look at the main objects of the legislation, namely that it should:
(a) establish a non‑partisan Parliamentary Service that is efficient and effective in serving both Houses of Parliament;
(b) provide a legal framework for the effective and fair employment, management and leadership of Parliamentary Service employees;
(c) define the powers and responsibilities of every Parliamentary Service employee; and
(d) establish rights and obligations of every Parliamentary Service employee.
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