[The Star] How a Bill becomes law

28 04 2008

LAWS are said to be made to maintain a well-regulated society and a reflection of social mores and thinking.

As such, laws will change over time and must change to keep with changes.

While Malaysian laws are generally made or amended based on local issues or problems, these days, changes to existing laws or pressure to make new law can be dictated by foreigners or because of what happens elsewhere.

The initiative for a new piece of legislation or amendment to an old law here can come from the Cabinet, the relevant Ministries, special interest groups, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the United Nations and foreign trade partners.

Some special interest groups that have been successful in getting new legislation passed, after years of research and lobbying, have been the trade unions (Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994), women’s groups (Domestic Violence Act 1994) and the arbitration community (Arbitration Act 2005).

Sometimes, numerous groups have worked in tandem or independently to bring about new law, such as women and human rights groups, Suhakam, Bar Council, AG’s Chambers, the United Nations and the US Government in bringing about the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 here.

Once the Cabinet approves the Bill, it is presented to the Cabinet and sent to Parliament for debate in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara where it has to be passed by a voice vote unless a member challenges the result and call for a division, whereby the votes are taken individually.

In the case of a Constitution (Amendment) Bill, voting has to be by division and can only be passed if a two-third majority votes “Aye”.

MPs can also try to table a motion for a Private Members Bill but this has yet to happen here.

The rules and conditions for such a bill are set out in the Parliament’s Standing Orders.

The time taken to pass a Bill – from its tabling for first reading to the debate after its third reading – can take from a few days to several months.

The article above is taken from the Web Portal of “The Star” newspaper.


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