Thursday, May 28, 2015

The reforms we should look at

Salleh Said Keruak

The keyword today is reforms. However, while Malaysians talk about reforms and the need for Malaysia to reform, not many really understand what the word means and what it entails.

Malaysia is actually a very unique country. It is not only unique in terms of the multi-cultural composition of its citizens but also in the system of government that it has adopted.

Malaysia is also unique in that it is neither a Secular State nor an Islamic State. I would classify Malaysia as a parliament democracy with a constitutional monarchy and with Islam as the religion of the Federation. That is what the Federal Constitution says, anyway.

Malaysia is supposed to be run by an Executive (in this case a Prime Minister) who takes orders from the Legislative (in this case Parliament). The Executive has a Cabinet to assist him in running the country -- that also must report to Parliament. Ultimately this makes Parliament supreme.

Parliament’s powers, however, are not absolute. Parliament has the power to pass laws but these laws first need to be vetted by the Senate and the Senate has the power to send the laws back to Parliament if the Senators do not agree with those laws.

Once those laws are final they then need to go to the Agong for his signature and if the Agong is not happy with those laws he can refuse to sign them and send them back to Parliament to be amended.

So, as you can see, we have many levels of checks and balances to prevent a dictator from taking over the country. Then we have the judiciary that makes sure every level -- the Executive, the Legislature, the Monarchy, etc. -- behave themselves and follow the law.

Unfortunately, back in the late-1980s, all this changed. So when we talk about reforms we need to know what we are talking about. The reforms that Malaysia needs are the restoration of the powers of the various branches of government so that there are better checks and balances.

Basically, we need a functioning Executive, Parliament, Senate, Monarchy and Judiciary that work together but are independent of one another and are able to check and balance each other.

That is the reforms we should be talking about. Short of that it will be mere talk with no results in the end.

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