No more bulldozing of laws, says Dewan Rakyat speaker

Select committees could be introduced as early as the next session of Parliament in October

By P PREM KUMAR & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The Parliament will adopt a select committee system to vet and deliberate proposed laws before they are tabled as part of institutional reforms under the new administration.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (picture) said the select committees will be formed based on areas of interests and could be introduced as early as the next session of Parliament in October.

Under the Westminster system, select committee members are selected from both government and Opposition parties.

Speaking to The Malaysian Reserve in an interview, Mohamad Ariff said draft proposals of new laws will be presented at the select committee stage, so lawmakers can discuss and tweak the proposals before the become a bill for tabling.

“This will avoid any bulldozing of the law, which should not happen in a matured parliamentary system.

“A rough idea on how many select committees and areas of interests that we will cover will be known before the end of this session,” he said.

The current session ends today, while the next session is expected to sit starting Oct 15.

A select committee is a committee made up of a small number of parliamentarians appointed to deal with particular areas or issues originating in the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.

Select committees currently exist in the British Parliament, as well as in other parliaments based on the Westminster model, such as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India and New Zealand. Mohamad Ariff said proposed laws should go through public engagements, while MPs should be given enough time to read and digest the bills, which would allow for healthy debates later on.

“Generally, I think there must be some leeway given in order to ensure the discussion of bills before a vote is taken on the floor of the house. This is something that is achievable.

“Once the select committees have been formed, the proposed bills should go before a select committee for a full discussion,” he added.

Mohamad Ariff said the proposed bills could be heard upon a special select committee on legislation or any other committees on areas of interests, based on the nature of the bills.

“If the bill concerns science and technology, then maybe it goes to the science and technology select committee for them to look through the bill,” he added.

Mohamad Ariff said the Committee of Selection will meet to fill in the members of the select committees once the proper outline is finalised, which will later be informed to the Dewan Rakyat through a statement.

“All this can be done quite fast as we are going to go on the basis of existing rules and standing orders. It is a speedier way to achieve the results,” he said.

Select committees are particularly useful when MPs want to investigate something in a detailed manner, rather than merely debating on it.

In a brief guide on the role and functions of select committees issued by the UK’s House of Commons, a select committee comprising a cross-party group of MPs is given a specific remit to investigate and report back to the House.

The committee gathers evidence from ministers and officials, the public and organisations outside Parliament.

The reports would then be published and the government must respond to the findings.

In the US, congressional committees are powerful bodies that monitor very closely the White House’s administration of the country from the inception of the president’s legislative programme right through the implementation of the budgetary expenditures approved by Congress.

Public hearings on matters of public concern are held regularly, such as on the 2007/2008 Wall Street financial meltdown and alleged privacy breach by Facebook Inc. The issues are investigated and corrective measures were recommended.

According to the Malaysian Parliament’s Standing Orders 81(1), a special select committee shall be appointed by order of the Dewan Rakyat and, subject thereto, shall consist of such members as may be nominated by the Committee of Selection.

Order 82(1) orders every select committee to reflect a balance between the parties within the august house.

The Committee of Selection for the 14th Parliament is chaired by Mohamad Ariff and its members include Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking, Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai and Opposition leader and MP Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datuk).