Parliament should sit for more days; lobby space for the media

Media conference statement by DAP MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong on 18th November 2015 at Parliament’s Lobby

I spoke in Parliament yesterday on the need for more sitting days to avoid late night Parliament sittings, as well as on the need to provide more space for the media at Parliament’s Lobby.

Limiting the number of journalists at Parliament’s Lobby is not conducive for a robust parliamentary democracy. Parliament proceedings need to be more accessibly the media so that the public knows what’s happening inside the august House.

I suggested to Dato’ Seri Azalina Othman Said, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department, during her reply session that a new temporary structure, next to the current Lounge for MPs, should be built for ministerial staff so that the entire Lobby’s space can be left to the media.

On sitting days

Unlike most other parliaments in the world, the Malaysian Parliament does not have a committee system to oversee ministerial performance and scrutinise ministerial budget in a detailed fashion.

The sittings in Parliament’s chamber is the only platform for MPs to scrutinise the Government, yet the number of sitting days is on an alarmingly sharp decline.
In 2008, the Dewan Rakyat sat for 79 days; 72 days in 2009; 83 days in 2010; 63 days in 2011; 70 days in 2012; 51 days in 2013; 57 days in 2014 and 61 days in 2015.

The British House of Commons sat for 162 days in the 2013-2014 Session and the Australian parliament typically sits for 150 days per year. Beyond the sitting in the main chamber, these parliaments have very robust committee debates and deliberations, which the Malaysian Parliament has yet to adopt.

One of the reasons given by the Government on why sitting days are reduced is that due to the renovation of the Parliament Building, the current temporary Chamber is shared between Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

I suggested to Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin that the Government considers using some of the heritage buildings around Kuala Lumpur, for instance, the old Istana Negara, as the venue for Senate sittings, so that both Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara can sit for more days.

Dewan Rakyat should sit for at least 80 days in 2016.

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