A look at key Bills yet to pass as Parliament resumes

The 3rd meeting of the 5th session of the 14th Parliament will take place from Oct 3 to Nov 29 in the Dewan Rakyat


THE Dewan Rakyat will reconvene for 32 days beginning the first week of October, after adjourning in July, with several Bills, including the anticipated Budget 2023, set to be tabled.

The third meeting of the Fifth Session of the 14th Parliament will take place from Oct 3 to Nov 29 in the Dewan Rakyat.

While the proposed Bill to amend The Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 takes centrestage, The Malaysian Reserve highlights some important outstanding Bills that have not yet been approved by MPs.

Parliamentary Services Act

The Parliamentary Services Act (PSA) was first enacted in 1963 allowing Parliament to act as a truly independent body, running its own affairs, controlling its expenditure and selecting its staff.

However, it was repealed in 1992, under the first Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad administration, with parliamentary affairs subsequently being placed directly under the Prime Minister’s (PM) Department.

Supporters of the law argue that it would better define the separation of powers that is central to the Westminster parliamentary system, in which the legislature (Parliament), executive (the Cabinet), and judiciary (the courts) are supposed to be independent of one another.

Currently, the government has a significant role in Parliamentary affairs. Expenditures, for example, must be approved by the Finance Ministry, and government agencies such as the Public Service Department (JPA) are in charge of staffing and maintenance.

Although the PSA was one of the points agreed upon in the memorandum of understanding signed between the government and Pakatan Harapan last year, a draft bill was yet to be seen.

Tobacco GEG

The Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, also known as the tobacco generational endgame (GEG) law prohibited smoking on the target group of the classified individuals born in 2007 and onwards.

Targeted to be approved this year, the law would come into force in 2025, ensuring ample time for a smooth transition in regulating tobacco products, smoking substances, substitute tobacco products or smoking devices.

The Bill was tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (July 27) and second reading on Monday (Aug 1) with the goal of passing it on Aug 2. However, it was postponed until the last minute after Khairy acknowledged that MPs had differing opinions on the Bill.

Anti Stalking Law Under the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2022, a new Section 507A will be created for the crime of stalking which penalised a person who is deemed to have committed stalking if the individual repeatedly by any act of harassment, intends to cause or knowing or ought to know, that such an act causes distress, fear or alarm to any person with regard to their safety.

Those convicted of the offence may be sentenced to imprisonment of not more than three years, a fine or both.

Also included, the new Section 98A under the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Act 2022 allows victims, their lawyers or guardian of a child or incapacitated adult to apply for the court’s protection ex parte. Once the order is issued, the suspected offender will be prohibited or restrained “from going near” the victim or persons related or associated with the victim.

Both Bills were tabled on the last day of the Fourth Session of the 14th Parliament by Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, the deputy minister in the PM’s Department in charge of Parliament and law. She also informed the House that both Bills would be read and passed in this coming Parliament sitting in October this year.

Institute for Political Reform and Democracy ED Idzuafi Hadi Kamilan said the return of the Act will address the information lop-sidedness by breaking the executives’ monopoly on information and the information would be available to both majority and minority parties.

“Parliamentary Service will also provide information in a more transparent and timely manner which can enhance MPs participation in Parliament business, especially during the legislative debate process, debate on the budget and ministerial questions and answers session,” he said.

He added that MPs are facing a shortage of time to conduct fundamental research on debate subjects and prepare for debates in the House.

“In addition, MPs are not equipped with well-trained research staff who can provide timely and credible inputs. During budget tabling, for example, it is essential for MPs to build analytical capacity in budgetary matters in order to be able to hold the government accountable,” he said. Additionally, Hadi said, an independent parliamentary service can provide MPs with independent, non-partisan and quality research analysis.

He is also confident Malaysia could follow other countries with a Westminster-style legislature. Australia, for example, has a proper mechanism of governance for parliamentary service in the form of the Australian PSA 1999.

“In maintaining its independence and integrity, the Parliament has a Parliamentary Service Commission, under Section 39 and 40 PSA 1999, which provides advice on Parliamentary Officers and makes national inquiries on any matters on Parliamentary affairs, including breach of the Code of Ethics,” he said.

Meanwhile, Social Democrat Association secretary general Irfan Mahzan said proposed amendments to the law to criminalise stalking were expected to be brought to Cabinet next month would send the message that stalk ing is a serious criminal offence. “Stalking has led to many assaults, with the gender-based crime disproportionately affecting women and girls,” Irfan said.

As such, the association urged the government to speed up on its commitment to criminalise stalking without any further delay as many had suffered and continued to suffer from stalking.

“Living in this new technology, it forms lurking around a person or the person’s home and workplace, sending unwanted messages, invading personal digital space and they are even more insidious,” he said.

He urged victims to also lodge complaints to telecommunication service providers or even the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is of little use as the stalker can just sign up with another account and stalk again.

“Tracking devices are also commonly available. It can be in your mobile phone or any Internet connected devices,” he said.

This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition