On Friday, I was really angry – quite a number of things had made me so. But nothing more than the National Security Council Bill passed by the Dewan Rakyat whilst I was asleep.
So you can imagine my mood on Friday morning. I made some calls, some whatsapp messages in my “We Cant Just Accept This” energy rush.
And this is what I found out (and remembered from Law School all of err.. 5 years ago :)
The NSC Bill is not yet law
The law making system here is based on the Westminster parliamentary system. Laws are made after going through the two houses of parliament – the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) and the Dewan Negara (Senate).
A Bill (Draft Law) is typically presented by a minister (although any MP can table a law) and it must go through three readings before it is passed. The whole point is that after it is tabled for the first reading, our democratically elected MPs can properly review it, get feedback and propose amendments. They should be given enough time on this in order to deliberate and raise any concerns which would generally happen during the Second Reading. A Committee would consider these concerns and amendments with a line by line review – followed by being tabled back in the House for the Third Reading.
This obviously cannot happen in one day. And yet it happened with the NSC Bill early Friday morning while most of us were asleep (4am).
The MPs were not aware that the Bill was on the agenda until the night before. Now if you ran a company, you would be very aware that you need to give 21 days notice for an AGM (or could it be 30 – am out of date) with the agenda together with any motions to be tabled. To do so the night before would render any resolution invalid. Today I discover that companies are more democratic than our Parliament.
I was also informed that the BN MPs do not have the freedom to vote based on their conscience. Let’s mull on that and remember that Malaysia has the highest Power Distance Index in the world – 104 (out of 100 points – champions!). So of course they dare not step out of line.
In a proper functioning democracy – before a Bill is even tabled in Parliament, the draft is available for the public and experts to comment on. This way the MPs know the public sentiments before it is tabled in Parliament.
Next steps for the Bill to become law
So what happens next? The Bill is not yet law. It still has to be passed by the Upper House – the Dewan Negara, again through three readings.
The Dewan Negara sits next week, scheduled to start with the Supply Bill (next year’s Budget). It is anticipated that it we might have a week’s breathing space before it is tabled, which gives us a short window to pressure our ministers to withdraw the Bill from Dewan Negara. There are precedents where Bills have been withdrawn after being passed by Dewan Rakyat due to public pressure so there is still a chance. Why ministers and not the senators? Because again, the senators may not dare defy the Whip, but the ministers can influence the withdrawal of the Bill.
I would also suggest we pressure every BN MP who was in the Dewan yesterday as to why they voted for the Bill. PRESSURE. Tell them – you know what, I am so NOT electing you in the next GE14 because of this (you probably already decided not to but you don’t have to say that). And isn’t this a good time to have a go at PAS whose MPs were absent so they wouldn’t have to show they were with the Opposition.
If the Bill is still passed by the Dewan Negara, the next step is for the Agong to give the Royal Assent. So now why would the Agong want to sign a Bill that gives away his power? Well actually he doesn’t really have a choice. Thanks to Dr M ensuring an amendment to the Federal Constitution back in the 90s, should the Agong not sign a bill, it still becomes law after 60 days (or it could be 30, I can’t remember).
Still, I would suggest that the Rulers pressure the government on this. One of my friends referred to an activist Sultan, and we all know who that is. Other state Rulers also have a conscience, for example Perak, NS, T’ganu and Kelantan. As their Rakyat, we can appeal to our Rulers. Although I am pretty sure some of them will speak up.
If the NSC Bill gets enacted and becomes law, the next step is Legal. Challenge the constitutionality of the Act in Court. Some of you are jaded by the Judiciary, but we must try all legitimate means at our disposal.
Sarawak has been a powerful Outlier of late – so that’s another possibility. Get the Sarawakian kingmakers to speak up.
Come on Malaysian citizens – we can do this!
We all have to speak up and pressure those pressure points.