[The Star] Seven Bills tabled in two days

15 12 2008

~ By LEE YUK PENG

At the Dewan Rakyat last week.

THE two-day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat last week saw the tabling of seven Bills, including the much awaited Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission (MACC) Bill and the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill.

The two Bills were personally tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, indicating his commitment to his fight against graft and to judicial reform.

Both Bills are scheduled to be debated during the second reading from tomorrow and opposition MPs are expected to kick up a fuss over them. Some have described the Bills as falling short of the reforms that had been widely anticipated.

The DAP held an emergency central executive committee meeting the very night after the Bills were tabled.

Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) said the DAP considered supporting the Bills but called for an amendment to the Federal Constitution so that the power to prosecute could be given to the MACC.

Party adviser Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) urged the Government to brief the MPs before the second reading.

He added that Pakatan Rakyat MPs would meet, latest by tomorrow, to decide the pact’s stand on the Bills.

Veteran lawyer Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) was also prepared to support the move to amend the Federal Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority, so that MACC will have the power to prosecute with­out going through the Attorney-General.

“Barisan Nasional is short of eight MPs for the two-thirds majority and DAP is keen to support,” Karpal Singh said.

“I also urge the Government to defer the JAC Bill pending the constitutional amendment. The Bill should not be rushed through.”

De facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, however, had another view on the matter.

Referring particularly to the JAC Bill, he said: “If we reject the Bill entirely, we go back to square one.

“We can always make the amendments at the committee level. We all want a good JAC.”

He welcomed the opposition MPs’ willingness to negotiate and discuss with the Government on the Bill.

All eyes will be on the two Bills as one wonders whether they will end up like the DNA Identification Bill and the Universities and Colleges Universities Bill.

The Opposition had voice objections to the two Bills which were tabled earlier this year.

The DNA Bill, which had its second reading passed in August and was initially listed for third reading in the Order Papers for December, has been deferred till next year. The reason given by the Govern­ment was that it had to make way for more urgent Bills like the ones on the MACC and JAC.

Furthermore, some amendments to the Bill can be expected.

The deferment, in a way, was a “victory by default” by opposition MPs.

They had requested for more time to scrutinise the Bill which they claimed contained defects.

The two sides failed to reach a compromise after the Opposition insisted that the DNA Bill should be sent to a selected committee where it would have been pulled apart and redrafted from scratch, although Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had offered to defer the third reading to December.

This resulted in the Opposition staging a walkout in protest when the second reading of the Bill was to be passed in August.

Now, although they did not get their demand for a select committee review, opposition MPs have gained a few more months to give feedback on the Bill to the ministry.

The Opposition did not have so much luck with the Universities and Colleges Universities Bill.

Despite a motion made under Standing Orders 57(2) by Tony Pua (DAP-Petaling Jaya Utara) to amend various sections of the Bill, it was shot down and the Bill was passed at 8pm on Thursday night.

Nevertheless, Pua, backed by Tian Chua (PKR-Batu), Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah), Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Serdang) and other opposition MPs, argued clause by clause with Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin before it was passed, calling it a “collective work of Pakatan Rakyat.”

A few backbenchers later ap­­proached Pua for his good effort, although he did not succeed to amend even one clause.

Another interesting episode which took place in the House last week was the debate on the Bukit Antara­bangsa landslide.

Mohd Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak), who filed the emergency motion to discuss the landslide, did not expect to see it happen.

This was only the second emergency motion to be allowed by Spea­ker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, out of a total of 61 lodged since April 28.

Datuk Ibrahim Ali (Ind-Pasir Mas) had even complained that the number of emergency motion applications being knocked out would make one give up trying to introduce any issue for debate in the House which were deemed important.

Azmin’s application got through only because it was deemed a specific matter, of public interest and of a matter of urgency.

This coming week will be the Dewan Rakyat’s last.

Article taken from The Star.


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