Enhancing Parliament’s role

  Enhancing Parliament’s role

REFLECTING ON THE LAW

I have edited and adapted to the Myanmar context from the original article in the Star online by SHAD SALEEM FARUQI.  I hope that  the Star and Dr Shad Faruqi, Professor of Law at UiTM ,  could understand and forgive for this. They should even be proud that they could contribute a very good letter for the fellow Myanmar/Burmese citizens.

HIGH up on my wish list for the Government’s agenda is that the Prime Minister should address the need to strengthen Parliament and the Judiciary.

Reform of Parliament:

How our premier representative institution can be reformed to serve the community better and to help improve accountability in government is one of the foremost challenges of constitutional law.

A number of suggestions, some provocative, have galloped around the outskirts of the legal system for some time and deserve consideration.

Bills:

To lighten the legislative load of the Lower House or Parliament and to enable greater scrutiny of legislative proposals, some politically non-controversial, non-money Bills should originate in the Senate or Upper House.

This will require both Houses to sit concurrently.

If members of Parliament are expected to scrutinise, criticise and revise legislative proposals, they must be supplied with draft copies of Bills at least two weeks before the beginning of the session.

If citizens are expected to give their input, the existing culture of secrecy surrounding Bills should be replaced with more openness.

Select Committees:

To save on parliamentary time, important Bills should be committed to Select Committees of the Houses as is the practice in the United Kingdom. Members of the public can be heard during the committee stage.

More opportunities for citizen participation in Select Committees (for scrutinising Bills) and Special Select Committees (for investigating other matters) would be a desirable practice.

Private Bills:

Greater recourse to the procedures for Private Bills and Private Member’s Bills ought to be made to enable citizens’ groups and private MPs to initiate legislation.

Support structures:

To assist MPs in their legislative and oversight functions, each MP should be assigned research staff and legislative assistants.

The Houses of Parliament should have their own legal counsel.

In the manner of the National Institute of Public Administration and the Judicial and Legal Training Institute, a Parliamentary Institute should be established to train MPs in the law and procedure of Parliament and to hone their abilities to research and analyse legislative proposals.

Inquisitorial Committees:

A system of well-integrated and well serviced investigatory committees as in the US and the Philippines holds the only key to enabling Parliament to become an effective countervailing force to the executive.

An increase in the number of sessional select committees from the present five to one for each government department as in the UK will also enable backbenchers to play a more meaningful role in Parliament.

In addition to Departmental Committees, Parliament should set up a Joint Committee on Human Rights to scrutinise Human Rights Committee’s reports. Joint Committees on Public Complaints and on Corruption should also be considered.

The jurisdiction of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament should be expanded to cover all Non-Financial Public Enterprises, all statutory bodies and their subsidiaries.

The findings of the PAC should be given some teeth.

Question time:

The question time for our MPs must be compared favourably with the daily question hour for 650 MPs in the British House of Commons.       

However, some clear-cut criteria ought to be established for the placement of parliamentary questions on the Daily Order Paper.

It is generally the case that out of about 30 questions tabled for reply, only 12 to 15 can be reached before question time runs out. Questions placed at the lower end of the agenda have no chance of being answered orally.

To maximise the impact of question time, there should be live coverage of it in the media.

Parliamentary sittings:

There is a strong case for a drastic increase in the number of parliamentary sittings in one year.

This can be contrasted with the United Kingdom where during the years 1959 to 1984, Parliament convened for 172 days per year on the average.

Constituency work:

One of the most significant aspects of an MP’s parliamentary life is that he acts as a one-person grievance-remedial instrument for his constituents.

In view of the importance of constituency work some aid and assistance ought to be given to MPs to facilitate this function.

Many MPs use their parliamentary allowance to establish ‘Service Centres’ in their constituencies. No official grant is available for this purpose.

The present practice is to allocate a “development grant” to each Government MP for use in his/her electoral district. Opposition MPs are denied this sum.

It is respectfully submitted that the selective allocation of this grant on the basis of political affiliation poses problems for Article 8’s promise of equality before the law to the MPs and to the voters not favoured with the grant.

The hope is that with these reforms, Parliament’s institutional capacity to oversee the making of laws and to perform the role of “grand inquest of the nation” will be enhanced.

Judiciary:

The reputation of our superior court judges is at its lowest point.

The system of judicial appointments must be reviewed to ensure that only those with integrity, fairness, proper temperament and firm knowledge of the law reach the hallowed halls of the judiciary.

There is no dearth of such luminaries. Only that they are often passed over for appointment or leadership positions.

 

Vatican and Muslims’ permanent dialogue

Vatican and Muslims

to establish permanent dialogue

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican and Muslim leaders agreed on Wednesday to establish a regular official dialogue to improve often difficult relations between the two religions.

 

 

File photo of Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican April 1, 2007.

 

The Vatican and Muslim leaders agreed on Wednesday to establish a regular official dialogue to improve often difficult relations between the two religions. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files)A joint statement said the first meeting of the “The Catholic-Muslim Forum” will take place on Nov. 4-6 in Rome with 24 religious leaders and scholars from each side.

It said the themes of the first session would be “Love of God, Love of Neighbour”, “Theological and Spiritual Foundation”, and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect”.

Pope Benedict will address the group, the statement said.

The announcement was made at the end of a two-day meeting at the Vatican with five representatives of a group of more than 200 Muslims who had signed an unprecedented appeal to the pope to begin a dialogue.

Catholic-Muslim relations nosedived in 2006 after Benedict delivered a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, that was taken by Muslims to imply that Islam was violent and irrational.

Muslims around the world protested and the pope sought to make amends when he visited Turkey’s Blue Mosque and prayed towards Mecca with its Imam.

After the fallout from the Regensburg speech, 138 Muslim scholars and leaders wrote to the German-born pontiff and other Christian leaders last year, saying “the very survival of the world itself” may depend on dialogue between the two faiths.

The signatories of the Muslim appeal for theological dialogue, called the “Common Word”, has grown to nearly 225 since.

Although Benedict repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to his speech in Regensburg, he stopped short of a clear apology sought by Muslims.

The Vatican side at the preparatory meeting that ended on Wednesday was headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Muslims were led by Sheikh Addal Hakim Murad, also known as Timothy J. Winter, president of the Britain’s Muslim Academic Trust and included Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community.

“We have to bring the dialogue up to date following the great successes of the pontificate of John Paul II,” Pallavicini told Reuters in an interview before the meeting.

Pallavicini said the meeting later this year would undoubtedly talk about terrorism.

“Terrorism is one thing that has to be discussed,” he said. “All religious leaders must renew a message of peace in their faith. Then it will be easier to isolate extremists and avoid the wrong use of religion,” he said.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

Fascist Myanmar SPDC Junta

Fascist Myanmar SPDC Junta

I have edited and adapted to the Myanmar context from the original letter to Malaysiakini by TCM. I hope that  Malaysiakini and TCM could understand and forgive for this. They should even be proud that they could contribute a very good letter for the fellow Myanmar/Burmese citizens.

It never ceases to amaze me why Burmese people continue to tolerate the SPDC Junta and Tatmadaw’s raping of Burma. Okay, I can understand if the leeches (pronounced ‘cronies’) like the military, but why anyone else?

Corruption

Everyone knows that corruption is a plague in Myanmar condoned and willingly spread by SPDC.

What is corruption by the SPDC Military government?

In its simplest form, it is the illegal raping of a county’s economic wealth – meant for the benefit of the citizen – for the personal accounts of the privileged few.

If every employee of a bank, for example, jointly conspired to steal money from your account, which you had trusted them to manage, would you continue placing your money in that bank? Furthermore, would you elect some of these same employees to represent you in more important matters affecting your children? It’s as simple as that. So why continue to tolerate SPDC?

Racism

As long as human beings have an independent thought process, there will always be some level of racism. That’s inevitable.

However, institutionalized racism is a whole different thing, which Myanmar Tatmadaw Generals practices.

This is apartheid, i.e., a policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination for a particular race(s).

Racist discrimination is found in all aspects of Myanmar society, i.e., entrance to higher educational institutions, scholarships, employment, land grants, business opportunities, licenses, etc. It has become the new religion of Tatmadaw.

Cronyism

This goes hand-in-hand with corruption and racism. In Myanmar, corruption and racism is unique.

Even within a particular race, further discrimination is encountered through cronyism. This is why no matter what form of institutionalized racist laws are implemented, not all persons of that race will reap the benefits.

In Myanmar, it’s the elite Military and ex-military personals and a few members of Swan Arrshin, Kyant Phut e.t.c. that will benefit. In view of this unique system of racial discrimination, the non-privileged poverty- stricken Burmese citizens will forever remain poor while the privileged elite Generals and cronies will have a larger share of the economic pie.

Intelligence

When we choose a person to represent us in a legal suit, we want a person who is competent and who will be able to safeguard our interests.

When we choose a doctor, we want a person who is familiar and competent with our ailment.

Similarly, when we choose a person to represent us in the government, we want a person who is competent and will be able to safeguard our interests. So why why should we accept military candidates?

Democracy vs. Fascism

Democracy

A democratic government is a government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives. One of the crucial elements of a democratic system is a strong opposition. The opposition is a vital part of the democratic system.

Fascism

  • Do not confuse Fascism with Nazism.
  • Nazism is not a government structure.
  • Fascism is a government structure.

The most notable characteristic of a fascist country is the separation and persecution or denial of equality to a specific segment of the population based upon superficial qualities or belief systems. (Read Burmese Muslims, Mixed blooded Indians and Rohingyas e.t.c.)

  • Simply stated, a fascist government always has one class of citizens that is considered superior to another based upon race, creed or origin.
  • Fascism promotes legal segregation in housing, national resource allocations and employment.
  • It provides legal justification for persecuting a specific segment of the population and operates behind a two-tiered legal system.
  • In fascism, one segment of society is always considered less desirable, sub-human or second class.

 

 

Mahathir: We need an opposition

  Mahathir: We need an opposition

Soon Li Tsin

Exclusive interview held at his Perdana Leadership Foundation office in Putrajaya.

Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad told voters that the country needs an opposition that can hold up a mirror to the government.

“I believe in an opposition. I have always maintained that this country needs an opposition and they should be critical of the government without which we don’t have a mirror to look at our faces. We think that we are very beautiful but it is the opposition that keeps telling us (that may not be true).

“You know the government member (of parliament), sometimes they are apple polishers. They are always saying ‘you’re right’, and you have no means of assessing whether you are going in the right direction or not.”

He told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview today that it would be a “disaster” if the country “loses its opposition” as in Singapore.

Looking a little frail in his trademark bush jacket since his second heart bypass in September last year, Mahathir gave his prognosis on this Saturday’s general elections.

Would you argue to vote for a strong opposition?

Well, I believe in an opposition, I have always maintained that this country needs an opposition and they should be critical of the government without which we don’t have a mirror to look at our faces. We think that we are very beautiful but it is the opposition that keeps on telling us (this may not be true).

You know the government member (of parliament) sometimes they are ‘ahli bodek’ (apple polishers) they are always saying ‘you’re right’ and you have no means of assessing whether you are going in the right direction or not. So this country, if it loses its opposition and be like Singapore, then there will be disaster.

Let’s review back the

 Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s views

on our Burmese oppositions_

Question…Do you want to recommend something to us, e.g. power sharing situations like Indonesia or South Africa. Do you believe that it will be able to achieve between Myanmar Military and the people e.s.p. with the opposition?

Answer…It could. But one has to remember this takes a long time. In case of South Africa, it takes three quarters of a century to reach the understanding with the authoritarian government and even in Indonesia, it took a long time. So of course, those people who wish to see change in Burma will have to work and be very patient.

Question…What is your view on the arresting of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?

Answer…That is very unfortunate. I don’t believe that is the kind of action that would bring about reconciliation. On the other hand of course Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also has to be more diplomatic. Perhaps too much dependence on foreign support is not very conducive to perusing the present régime to accept her. 

QuestionAnd now we have a stalemate in Burma. The Military Junta refused to negotiate with the Democratic parties and opposition. What is your comment and advice? What should we do or happen? Should we go back to the elections like 16 years ago?

AnswerWell it is very difficult to say. But you know people are very impatient. I just finished the biography of Nelson Mandela. He was in jail for 27 years. And yet he continued the struggle from within the jail. If other people, they would have given up. But he went on and on and he eventually, of course, he achieved success. So, those who wish to see Burma change and be more democratic may have to be very patient and may have to wait.

QuestionLet’s see what happen to Nelson Mandela. He is respected as the great leader even after he resigned as the president of South Africa. But that kind of trait is absent in Asian countries. In Burma we all see that we forget easily and ignore the. Independence General Aung San, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s father. And your good long service to Malaysia is also ignored by some.

AnswerI think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi might just be able to show that kind of determination. And the kind of patience, that was shown by Nelson Mandela.

QuestionSo she has to go through like all those 27 years?

AnswerNo! But it may be even longer. We don’t know. But the struggles of the nations take a long time. We want to be in a hurry. But in case of Malaysia, e.g. it took us 450 years to regain our independence. 450 years is a long time.

QuestionBut as for Burma, could the Generals’ trend and approach soften towards the reconciliation sooner?

AnswerI think the different Generals have a different attitudes. Presently, of course, the hardliners have the authority. People like the more accommodating one, those may be some still in the government and it is up to them.

QuestionIs that because of the people, a kind of disengagement because the head of the people is put under house arrest. I think she should have a free movement and ability to talk.

AnswerWell, that could be ideal of course, if she is able to talk. But as you know, when they had elections there, she won. And then I think this had frightened the Junta.

QuestionThe (Myanmar) Military, as you can see has no mood of releasing the power they got hold of it. But in Malaysia, you had actually done it. You let go the power while you were still strong enough (to dodge your opponents). And you did not drive from the backseat. (Like in some countries.) You dare to let go the powers you have. But in Burma, the Generals, actually the term Generals meant the Military (As new generals would replaced the olds endlessly) would be there for a long long time. They should (instead) work together with the people for the betterment of the country and society.

AnswerThey might be (scared). (But) I have no fears. If I give up the power, I did not think, I would be arrested and throw into jail. But I think the situation is different in Myanmar/Burma because the (Myanmar) Generals feel that action would be taken against them. So, they are not going to give up.

But one has to remember that even though they may be Generals, they may be authoritarians, they are still Burmese people. Some where along the line, they may feel for the Burmese people and for Burma. They (may) want to see Burma becoming the country where the people are happy and prosperous. 

QuestionWhat do you want to comment about the present economic condition of Burma? Any advice to improve?

AnswerIt saddens me that a country that is, that has tremendous potential, very very rich should actually remained poor, because the government has not worked out a solution that would benefit the people of Burma. Do you know, Burma is very rich, a lot of minerals, a lot of precious stones.

But wealth by itself , existence of wealth by itself , does not mean anything, until the wealth is mobilized.

So the government can, even if it is an authoritarian, it still can work hard for the people.

QuestionJust one more question. Do you think that we all let by gone be by gone, forgive, forget and start a fresh new relationship for the benefit of all the people and the country?

AnswerWell, I think, if that can be done, certainly, we have to forget the past. If we think in terms of taking revenge for what happened in the past, there will be no solution. But if you want to have a good relation, we have to deliberately forget the past. Because if you keep on thinking about the past, there is no end to the problem.

BURMA DIGEST: Thank you very much for the time and trouble for our interview.

His Excellency Tun Dr Mahathir: You are welcome.

We are just presenting the alternative views, facts and ideas of the third party, interested and trying to help our country.  H.E. Tun Dr M was a most powerful man in Malaysia and given up power voluntarily although his opposition was not strong enough to remove him at that time.

So he definitely has a better understanding of the powerful rulers’ fear of losing power, repercussions, revenge legal actions, the new government’s differing change and style of administration of  the country,  and views on the opposition parties.We hereby thank H.E. Tun Dr M for opening our eyes to have an understanding of the SPDC Government so that we could formulate strategies to reassure and persuade them for a true dialogue leading to the National Reconciliation and power sharing agreement with the opposition.