Tuesday, September 28

Nursing democracy back to normal, are we?

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File photo, taken in November last year, shows the elected representatives attending the Third Meeting of the Third Term of the 14th Parliament of Malaysia. Sarawak and Sabah should each have more MPs in this august House to sustain parliamentary democracy in Malaysia. — Bernama photo

THE structure of the parliamentary democracy or constitutional monarchy as adopted by Malaysia has been undermined by party politics for years. One of the most important pillars of the parliamentary system of government at risk is the lawmaking body itself.

Since the Declaration of the Emergency at the beginning of this year, the normal functions of the federal and state legislatures have been suspended.

It was not easy to persuade the federal government to call for the meeting of Parliament during the Emergency. It took a sustained campaign by the democratic forces in the country with the help of netizens and the express support of His Majesty, Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, and the Malay Rulers, before the government of the day was finally obliged to convene the meeting of parliament.

It’s tomorrow!

And on Sept 6, the Parliament will meet again. Good news – God-Willing and the weather permitting.

Special session

Tomorrow’s meeting is said to be special. The main items on the agenda will be presentations by various ministers on the activities of their own ministries. Other members of the House may speak on relevant issues and suggest practicable solutions to any problem in connection with the measures taken by each of the ministries concerned – always provided that Mr Speaker would allow them to say anything.

Members of the House would be urged to endorse all the Ordinances made during the Emergency. There may be some debates on certain issues. We shall find out soon enough.

I can imagine the disappointment of the members of Parliament, especially those on the Opposition bench. They had hoped to attend a normal Parliament with the standard Order of the Day – Prayers, Speaker’s Communication, Questions for Oral Answers, followed by the rest of the agenda.

We shall see if our MPs would rubberstamp what the government has done by way of measures, or whatever better alternatives could have been used to handle the economy damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Strategic exit plan

I was hoping that for the next five days the legislators would go straight to discussing the strategies on how Malaysians could get out of this quagmire caused by movement restrictions, economic, social and political problems.

A Parliament united in catching the bull by the horns!

Let’s hope that there would be a combined wisdom that could fight against the coronavirus via policy measures, which would be more effective than those hitherto implemented.

Voters’ helplessness

I think people would like to get a hint of the assurance that the Emergency would be lifted on Aug 1, and that the preparations for the state elections would proceed without interruptions. Much as we wish that our parliamentarians would articulate our interests according to what we want, we realise that while the rider could lead his horse to the water, he could not force it to drink.

Still, we hope that those members of Parliament from Sarawak would have the opportunity to actively participate in the deliberations of the august House.

If not this time, then at the next sitting of Parliament in September – or during the tabling of Budget 2022.

What should they bring up? Here’s my list:

Vaccines

The rationale for spending billions of ringgit for the purchase of the vaccines under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). Figures ranging from RM3 billion to RM87 billion have been mentioned ove social media. The ordinary citizens are wondering if this large amount of money for the vaccines is not too much for inoculating 80 per cent of a population of 23 million?

Allegations of delay in the roll-out of the vaccines – was there a delay? If there was, what was the cause?

Slow progress of the PICK – was there a legitimate explanation as to the cause of the slow progress? Allegations of certain rural people missing out in the access to certain vaccines – have all these allegations been largely fake?

Why can’t Sarawak buy the vaccines direct from the suppliers by using its own money first, and then get reimbursed eventually by the federal government?

Financial assistance schemes

A number of such packages have been created. I cannot remember all their fancy names; all carry messages of care and concern for the welfare of the recipients. Of the billions of ringgit allocated for the funding of these schemes, how much has been reserved for Sarawakians – the extreme poor, the small businesses, the handicapped, those living in the interiors?

Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) talks

How have the MA63 talks progressed?

Is Sarawak going to be categorised as a ‘Wilayah’ (Region)?

What are the sticky issues, if any, and how are they to be resolved?

Publish details of issues already solved. When are they to be released?

Amendment to Federal Constitution

Is there a plan to amend Article 46 of the Federal Constitution in order to increase the number of MPs from the present 31 members for Sarawak? And to increase the 25 MPs from Sabah to …? And, while you’re at it, reduce the Cabinet to something like a reasonable number of ministers?

Education

What are the solutions to the shortage of school teachers in Sarawak?

What exactly is the purpose and function of Sarawak’s own Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research?

You and I can think of many more questions, of great importance in terms of nation-building. The answers to my dozen would determine whether or not there is the political will on the part of the people walking along the corridors of power.

We shall see if the parliamentarians would be able to produce ideas with which to kill the virus and salvage the economy.

And, slowly and steadily, restore the health to the ‘Parliamentary Democracy’.