Malaysia's oppn coalition flags curbs to executive power | Connect Asia

Malaysia's oppn coalition flags curbs to executive power

Malaysia's oppn coalition flags curbs to executive power

Updated 18 March 2013, 17:44 AEST

Malaysia's opposition coalition the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) says that if it's elected it will introduce measures to limit the power held by the executive branch of Government.

The opposition's parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang announced seven steps that it says will return the country to the "true democratic spirit of the country's consititution".

The policy pledges include more time for MPs to consider laws, an independent speaker of the lower house of parliament and a new national Freedom of Information Law.

The Pakatan Rakyat is an informal coalition made up of the People's Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Lim Kit Siang, Pakatan Rakyat's parliamentary leader

LIM: Well I think over the decades there has been a concentration of power where the executive has usurped the powers of the legislature and that is the parliament as well as the judiciary to the extent it has become a very, very authoritarian form of governance. And I think one of the ways that Malaysia must become a normal functioning democracy is for the restoration of the independence of the ... of the separation of powers.

COCHRANE: And specifically what measures would you introduce, if the opposition is voted in in the next election, what would you introduce to try and limit that power and wrest back some democratic control?

LIM: Firstly in order to ensure a really independent parliament whereby there will be a non-partisan Speaker as much as possible. That the ministers' powers will be checked and not aggrandisement where there are provisions in the various laws hosting judicial review of ministerial or executive powers, because in many instances, the exercise of ministerial powers has been given a cast iron position where they cannot be reviewed in the courts. Provisions whereby members of parliament whether from the opposition or backbenchers have the freedom to participate meaningfully in the parliamentary debates and parliamentary functions. For instance, in the establishment of select committees - to have a closer look at various proposed legislations, as well as to ensure a proper check and balance mechanism over the functioning of government.

COCHRANE: And part of that check and balance, I understand is a proposal to introduce a Freedom of Information Act. How would that operate?

LIM: Well I think it's very important because in Malaysia we have the Officials Secrets Act which is not only outdated but a very draconian version - even more draconian than OSA originally found in the United Kingdom. (This is) because of the very punitive provisions, very, very heavy penalties imposed. And the Official Secrets Act has become a coverall for all abuses of power. And I think what is needed, especially with the information era, Freedom of Information Act whereby sensitive defence, security matters are of course protected, but otherwise, there is a more open transparent system of governance whereby abuses of power and corruption in particular, can be checked and exposed.

COCHRANE: And this kind of freedom of information law has already been passed in states led by Pakatan Rakyat, like Selangor. How effective has it been in keeping ministers and officials clean?

LIM: Well in Selangor, in Penang they have introduced a Freedom of Information Act and up till now, there has been no complaints about abuses of power, about corruption in Selangor, and in Penang, both states which are run by Pakatan Rakyat. And there's no doubt that if there's any possibility of abuses of power or corrupt practice, that the federally-controlled Anti Corruption Commission, will pounce on them. I think that is itself is a testament that although more can be done, but freedom of information legislation will go a long way to bringing about an ethical and honest government.

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