6 April 2023
When sitting Members of Parliament (MPs) accept appointments by the Executive, being from the Prime Minister and/or the Cabinet, to positions in statutory bodies/agencies or government owned/linked companies (GLCs), their independence or ability to be an effective check against Executive abuses and wrongdoings may be compromised. With such appointments, they may receive additional monies, benefits and powers, over and above their MP’s allowances.
MPs, not in the Cabinet, have a very important Parliamentary role of overseeing and monitoring the Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, his Ministers and cabinet members to ensure that there is, amongst others, no wrongdoing, mistakes, abuses and corruption in government.
This is also the role of MPs that are from parties that today form the Pakatan Harapan-led coalition government who are commonly known as ‘government backbenchers’.
On 7/3/2023, Mohd Sany Hamzan, a government backbencher in Parliament, urged the government to launch investigation into the Pharmaniaga Bhd, a pharmaceutical group that suffered losses, given its link to the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT). The MP from the Amanah party, a member of the Pakatan Harapan, amongst others, said that ‘…we cannot compromise on matters related to misappropriation, breach of trust and corruption that plague our country,” (Edge Markets, March 7). After his appointment to a government agency, will he still be critical of the government?
Recently, we came to know that the following MPs from parties, now in government, may have been appointed, although there may be many more cases that we are unaware of.
- Parit Sulong MP Noraini Ahmad (BN and also now UMNO Women Chief) as chairman of the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA)
- Hulu Langat MP Sany Hamzan(Amanah-PH), has been made deputy chairman of Tekun Nasional, a government loan provider for Bumiputera entrepreneurs.
- PKR,s Balik Pulau MP, Bakhtiar Wan Chik, have been appointed chairman of MyCreative Ventures Sdn Bhd. MyCreative is a wholly owned subsidiary of Minister of Finance Incorporated.
MPs in Parliament oversees and monitors the government not just by questions and speeches in the Dewan Rakyat, the lower House of Parliament, but also through investigation and inquiries that in Parliament are done by the Parliamentary Committees, including Select and Special Select Committees.
Members of the Cabinet should not be in Committees investigating alleged wrongdoings
Order 77(4) of the Standing Orders of the Malaysian House of Representatives, with regard the Public Accounts Committee states ‘(4) No member may be appointed or nominated to or act as Chairman or member of the Public Accounts Committee while he is a Minister…’ Minister here includes Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary.
Rightly, the membership of all Parliamentary Committees including Special Select Committees should not include any members of the Executive. Remember that these Committees when conducting their investigation or inquiries have the power to summon witnesses, and it is odd if the related Minister or any other Cabinet member sits as a member of such Parliamentary Committee. Members of the Cabinet may be observers, but should not be in such Parliamentary committees, where the member MPs therein best be independent of the Executive.
Now, it should also be considered whether backbencher MPs appointed to positions in government agencies/bodies/entities or government-linked companies (GLCs) ought to be excluded from Parliamentary Committees including Special Select Committees who may be investigating a particular issue, which most likely will be linked to the Executive. Rightfully, they ought to be excluded as they who gets extra ‘benefit’ from the Executive may be perceived as no longer being independent of the Executive.
MPs have already much to do
A MP, being a peoples’ representative, is primarily loyal to the people in his constituency and in Malaysia generally, not the party that he is part of or its leaders. Backbencher MPs are not part of the decision-making process of the Cabinet, and as such, they are free to raise their concern or criticisms to matters brought by the Minister or Cabinet to Parliament. They should not ‘blindly’ support all that is said or done by the Cabinet simply because their party is part of the coalition that forms the government, or because their party leaders are part of the Cabinet.
Most MPs have over 100,000 persons within their own constituency, and being their representative in Parliament, these MPs are duty bound to be in constant consultation with the people they represent to effectively communicate their constituents’ views, not the MP’s own personal views, in Parliament regarding Bills and issues discussed. This itself will take a lot of time, and hence it is best that Malaysia consider having full-time MPs.
MPs also need to study Bills and issues that will be raised in Parliament to be able to effectively contribute in the Parliamentary Debate. We do not want mere ‘seat warmer’ MPs that will simply vote as instructed by party whips.
MPs also will get appointed to various Parliamentary Committees and even Special Select Committees, which require more work and time. The effectiveness of Parliament and its Committees can be improved to ensure no more 1MDB or SRC scandals arise. It is better to maintain continuous scrutiny on government, government agencies and GLCs, rather than simply responding after the worse had happened to the detriment of Malaysia.
Being appointed as a Chairman or Director of a government agency or GLC also means additional work and responsibility, and a good MP really will not have the time unless he compromises on his other obligations to the people and to Parliament.
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, which is also concerned about democracy and human rights, urge for the end of appointment of sitting MPs to government agencies or GLCs; and call for those sitting MPs already appointed to immediately resign from their position and return to be good MPs carrying out their roles in Parliament.
Reforms promised by Pakatan Harapan(PH) to the ousting of the Barisan Nasional(BN) regime in GE14. The lack of speedy changes in their about 22 month rule of PH-led government, may have resulted in a drop in support in GE15. PM Anwar Ibrahim and the PH-led government have a 2nd chance, but if similar practices of the then pre-GE14 BN regime is maintained, including political appointment of MPs and politicians, with no real reforms, then the people may be forced to look elsewhere for change.
For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)