Three cheers for the Dewan Negara.
For the first time in 58-year Malaysian history, the appointed UMNO/BN MPs in Dewan Negara have put the elected UMNO/BN MPs in Dewan Rakyat to shame not only for speaking up for the people, but even more important, for daring to speak the truth in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience.
The BN Senator who stole the limelight was none other than the Malaysian Senators Council (MSM) President Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman who expressed concern that the NSC Bill may be unconstitutional and contravene other laws in terms of the extensive power given to the director appointed to a security area.
He called for amendments to the Bill so that it will not contravene the Federal Constitution.
Abdul Rahman hit the nail on the head for the pernicious and monstrous NSC Bill is unconstitutional on multiple fronts, not only in usurping the constitutional powers of the Yang di Pertuan Agong, the Cabinet, the Sarawak and Sabah Governments with regard to the autonomy powers conferred on them by the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and the 11 State Governments in Peninsular Malaysia, but also the many guarantees and fundamental liberties entrenched in the Constitution.
The Rukunegara principles on the Supremacy of the Constitution and Upholding the Rule of Law are blatantly flouted by the NSC Bill which grants protection to the authorities from legal proceeding and judicial review.
Abdul Rahman further questioned the power granted to the security forces to relocate people, as well as acquire land and properties, which clearly contravene Article 9 on Prohibition of Banishment and Freedom of Movement and Article 13 on Rights to Property of the Constitution.
But despite these trenchant and potent arguments against the NSC Bill, will Abdul Rahim vote for the NSC Bill at the second and third readings when the time for voting in Dewan Negara comes later today?
The same question applies to all Barisan Nasional Senators, who have suddenly found the voice to articulate the concerns of the ordinary Malaysians and to be true to their own conscience as well?
More than one Barisan Nasional Senator endorsed Abdul Rahim’s concern that the NSC Bill violates the Federal Constitution and the need for a further study of the NSC Bill so that the Dewan Negara would not be called a rubber stamp.
Senator K. Bathmavatahi, who proposed that the NSC Bill be referred to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, is rightly concerned about the vague definition of national security of the Bill.
Another Barisan Nasional Senator disagreed that the Prime Minister should be given the powers to declare a “security area” under the NSC Bill and wants the Yang di Pertuan Agong to be granted the power to make such decisions.
There have also be suggestions that the Chief Ministers of Sarawak and Sabah should be members of the NSC and the Bill amended to make it compulsory to seek the approval of the Chief Ministers of both Sarawak and Sabah if security areas are to be declared in the two states.
The elected Barisan Nasional MPs in Dewan Rakyat must be very envious and even jealous that their counterparts in Dewan Negara are allowed to speak up about their objections and reservations about the NSC Bill which they were not allowed to do when the NSC Bill was debated in the Dewan Rakyat on Dec. 3.
This is one positive outcome of the powerful backlash in the past 18 days against the NSC Bill not only nationally but internationally as a result of the shot-gun passage of the NSC Bill, like “a thief in the night”, in the Dewan Rakyat in a late-night sitting on the last day of the 25-day budget parliamentary meeting, without proper notice to MPs and the civil society or adequate time for parliamentary debate.
Imagine, the Dewan Negara having more time than Dewan Rakyat to debate a Bill, which is completely unheard-of in Malaysian parliamentary history.
Clearly, the Najib government has relented a little as a result of the bad national and international publicity in the shot-gun passage of the NSC Bill in the Dewan Rakyat on Dec. 3 – to allow for a longer debate and Barisan National Senators to speak up and criticize the NSC Bill, so long as they eventually voted for the passage of the NSC Bill.
If it is true that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had met the BN Senators before the debate, and given them the “green light” to speak up and criticize the bill provided they obediently voted in support of the Bill, then what happened in the Dewan Negara in the debate on the NSC Bill is a mere parliamentary charade which is of no credit either to Dewan Negara or the Malaysian Parliament.
BN Senators who have won new respect from Malaysians for daring to speak up to oppose the weaknesses, flaws and dangers of the NSC Bill will forfeit their new-found public respect and admiration in a matter of 24 hours if they are not prepared to act on their conviction and vote for reference of the Bill for further study and amendment, as the NSC Bill in its present form is a blight on constitutional democracy in Malaysia.
Which is better, to speak boldly against the weaknesses, flaws and dangers of the NSC Bill but to submissively vote in favour of the NSC Bill in the Senate; or to act like the BN MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, to keep their silence for the elected BN MPs know from the very beginning that they have finally to vote obediently for the NSC Bill, whatever their inner reservations and objections to the draconian Bill?
There have been tons of suggestions in the debate in Dewan Negara about the need for amendments to the NSC Bill to ensure that it does not contravene the Federal Constitution or stifle parliamentary democracy by paving the way for a Prime Ministerial dictatorship in Malaysia, but what is the use of these suggestions and speeches if the BN Senators know that none of their suggestions would be accepted and that they would have to vote for the NSC Bill with all their weakness, flaws and dangers at the very end?
The Dewan Negara should invoke Standing Order 74 to refer the NSC Bill to a Select Committee for a further study of the Bill.
If the Najib government wants to force a vote, then Senators should not just speak up but must be prepared to stand up to be counted, and there should be a division under Dewan Negara Standing Order 46 for every Senator, whether Barisan Nasional or the Opposition, to let Malaysians know how he or she voted on the NSC Bill.
Let’s not have a parliamentary charade where BN Senators are allowed to criticize the NSC Bill but forced to vote for it at the end of the debate