In Malaysia, we have politicians saying and doing the darnest things. And that includes the Member of Parliaments and State Assemblymen. We have seen the people’s representatives using vulgar words in ceramahs; representatives confiscating or demolishing illegal structures; representatives taking over the job scope of the enforcements; representatives discriminating other genders even in the Parliament; some making statements that don’t make sense; and some are just a proxy of certain political leaders that couldn’t make it to become the representatives.
What are the real tasks of a people’s representatives? Is the Parliament and the State Assemblies functioning as it is suppose to be? Do the people really understand what the roles of the MPs and State Assemblymen are?
In my honest opinion, I think generally Malaysians do not understand how a Parliament functions. And Malaysia needs a Parliamentary reform including the quality of people’s representative.
To put it simply, the main job of an MP is to make laws. They have to listen to the people’s voices and represent those voices to determine the laws of the nation. They have to bring the voices to the Parliament to debate and convince the prestigious hall to agree to any proposed law.
Unfortunately, the existing Parliamentary system and community’s mindset does not allow the Parliament to perform at its best.
Firstly, the people does not vote a candidate based on any individual quality, but based on a party. Hence, even people who have zero knowledge on legislation can be elected as the representative. People who act like thugs can even be elected to the Parliament.
Secondly, the system doesn’t encourage real engagement with the public on issues that can be tabled in the Parliament. Instead, most of the public engagements with the MPs are for reasons that are not related to legislations such as uncollected rubbish, damaged drains and even worse, family arguments. Although I cannot deny the fact that MPs in a certain way have to deal with the real local issues; but the main job of an MP should be about legislations. Therefore, an MP should be well-versed in the current issues of the nation; and they should know well what the people from their constituency wants.
Besides that, the Parliament doesn’t meet enough to allow for quality debates and decision making. In general, most of the Parliament in developed countries meets for about 120 days, while Malaysia’s Parliament meets for about 60 days per year.
The infrastructure and facilities such as researchers, assistance for public consultations and many others are limited to the MPs.
Researchers of the Parliament are very limited to assist all 222 MPs to research on information and facts before the MPs table in the Parliament and debate.
There are also other matters in the Parliament that needs to be reformed such as the debating system, public consultations, standing and ad-hoc committees to ensure in-depth debates and many others. The public should also be educated that they have the rights to voice out to their constituency’s representatives.
We need quality MPs and not those who creates unnecessary attention and publicity. That is only achievable by a Parliamentary reform from inside the Parliament and outside which is awareness to the public.