KUALA LUMPUR: Dewan Negara president Tan Sri S.A. Vigneswaran yesterday suggested that the membership of the senate from the states’ appointments be increased to three people each for the purpose of reforming the institution.
He said at present the state appointed members of the Dewan Negara is two people and the number should be viewed again to bring the states’ voice to the national level.
“As the International Islamic University Malaysia law lecturer associate professor Dr Shamrahayu Abd Aziz had said, the proposal to increase the number of members from each state is in line with the original intention of the formation of the Dewan Negara, among others, to safeguard the interests of the states forming the Federation.
“So, it is recommended that this roundtable discuss about increasing the membership of the Senate seriously because since 1959, the membership appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has increased from 16 people to 44 members now but there is no change in the states’ appointments,” he said.
He said this at the opening of the Dewan Negara Reform Round Table Conference at the Parliament building yesterday attended by Senate Reform Working Committee chairman Senator Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff.
According to the provision in Article 45 (4) of the Federal Constitution, Parliament may make laws to increase the number of Senate members to be picked by each state to three persons.
In the meantime, Vigneswaran also suggested that the membership period of the Dewan Negara be increased to five years instead of three years for one term now.
He said the increase in this period would enable the senators to contribute significantly to national development.
“The newly appointed senator will need time to learn government policy and the functionings of the government machinery, three years is not enough, if five years, (he is) already matured, can give full attention and contribute, many advantages other than full pension, “he said.
Vigneswaran also called on the government to consider other roles that could be exercised by a senator as they had no parliamentary constituencies to serve like members of Dewan Rakyat.
“Their roles and contributions can be enhanced based on their respective expertise, especially in the field of parliamentary diplomacy.
“Alternative diplomatic channels between Dewan Negara members and other upper house members will also enable future country leadership to be assured as well as to build friendship for long-term impact,” said Vigneswaran, who is also the President of the MIC.
He said if the government did not utilise the expertise of the senators effectively, there would be a perception that the services of experienced Senate members were not used at all and called on the government to pay due attention.
Among the other recommendations he made was the establishment of a motion session in the Senate to increase the work of a senator.
“We see this year we will sit for 27 days only, its not that we do not want to sit longer. But there is a perception that the Dewan Rakyat is sitting longer, but we (the Senate) do not. It must be understood that we are only one-third (70 members) compared to the 222 members of the Dewan Rakyat.
“I would like to see the motion session to be one of the agenda of the Senate reform which will enable experienced senators to table motions in the people’s interests, maybe two or three days, before or after the Dewan Rakyat sitting is adjourned in a session,” he said.
He also hoped the government would accept the proposal that the minister be present himself at the Senate session to answer questions as a tribute to the nation’s highest legislative body. — Bernama