Parliamentary scrutiny of government is not ‘playing politics’

It is about checks and balances in a parliamentary democracy

360 views

We saw and heard many leaders of the Perikatan Nasional government claiming that opposition members of Parliament or opposition parties who were questioning government budgets, policies and implementation were merely playing politics.

These PN leaders, especially their head of government and several ministers often claimed that opposition MPs and opposition parties’ continual “playing in politics” would further “harm our nation’s recovery plan” and jeopardise economic recovery efforts.

Such statements made by PN leaders were misleading, trying to convince people with their statements indicating or alleging that the opposition was trying to harm or threaten the stability of the nation and the wellbeing of the people.

Those who do not understand much about parliamentary democracy would certainly be made to believe that the opposition parties’ or MPs’ activities or statements were harmful or threatened the nation’s stability.

People need to be educated and understand more about politics and what parliamentary democracy is really all about. It is not just ‘fight’ between the government and the opposition. It is also not a power struggle. The way the government painted the opposition’s role was disappointing, trying to make the opposition look bad and make people perceive the opposition as mere “troublemakers”.

In fact, the government was unleashing misleading news and statements to the people almost every day to suggest an “evil plot” of the opposition parties in the eyes of the public.

In parliamentary democracy, it is the duty of responsibility of opposition MPs and opposition parties to scrutinise the sitting government’s budgets, policies and their implementation. It is not about the opposition trying to prevent good things from being carried out by the government for the people. Opposition scrutiny of the government is about ensuring the government’s transparency, accountability and competency in government implementation and policy outlines.

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The government’s attempt to stop Parliament from continuing its proceedings by reasoning that Covid was widespread was yet another lame excuse to stop MPs from scrutinising the government head and his ministers on matters related to budgets, policies and their implementation. This was gravely disappointing.

If parliamentary proceedings cannot be carried out physically, then they should be carried out virtually. But such virtual proceedings were prevented by the government, which reasoned that it did not have sufficient funds or resources to convene online parliamentary sittings – yet another lame excuse to escape scrutiny.

Almost every day, we saw Mahiaddin Yasin meeting top government officials and foreign dignitaries using the most sophisticated online gadgets and hardware, which many of us would dream of having. So, with the availability of such up-to-date technology and sophisticated online gadgets and hardware being used in the Prime Minister’s Department and other government ministries, why do they keep claiming they do not have sufficient funds or resources to convene parliamentary sittings virtually? This was yet another attempt to keep Parliament away from the government’s daily affairs.

And when opposition MPs wanted to enter Parliament to meet the Speaker and convene a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, they were greeted by blockades and stopped by hundreds of police personnel stationed at the entrance of Parliament.

Over the next few days, these opposition MPs were called up by police, one by one, to have their statements taken on the alleged “illegal assembly” at the entrance of Parliament and Dataran Merdeka. What illegal assembly? These MPs have a constitutional right to enter Parliament even when there is no sitting on that day.

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Such actions are clearly offences under Sections 124, 124B, 124C of the Penal Code as these MPs were prevented from exercising their duties. This government has allegedly carried out or attempted to carry out activities that are detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

The people must understand that scrutiny is not about doing things against the government of the day. It is about checks and balances in a parliamentary democracy. It is the constitutional duty and responsibility of these MPs to provide checks on whatever the government does, even if it is good for the people. They must ensure that budgets, policies and their implementation are carried out transparently, competently and with accountability. – whcheng18.wordpress.com

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