Oleh : FMT STAFF
KOTA KINABALU: Luyang assemblyman Hiew King Cheu’s understanding of politics in Sabah and Malaysia is pretty lousy. Most of his complaints about the shortcoming of parliamentary and state assembly procedures and debates are unsophisticated.
In his view, a longer State Legislative Assembly sitting is necessary to “effectively debate and to address issues affecting the state and its people”.
But, when has parliament or the state assembly sittings ever been used to “hear the voice of the people”?
Hiew believes that the duration for the coming 14th Sabah State Legislative Assembly sitting which begins next week is too short and inadequate to debate “pressing issues” regarding the state and the people.
He said it should be at least 14 days and not just three days (June 18-20).
He said even though the assembly sitting commences on June 13, most of the time will be taken up by the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected state assembly representative.
After that the assembly begins its official sitting on June 17 with an opening speech by Sabah Governor, who is the head of state, .
According to Hiew it will conduct its business until June 20.
The business-end of the sitting is the daily one hour question and answer session – between 10am-11am – from June 18-20.
This time is mainly for debating the governor’s speech. Summing up of the replies to the question is on June 20.
“This means that many questions are not being given the chance to be tabled in the assembly.
“This is very unfair for the people who had waited for such a long time for their problems to be brought up in the State Assembly meeting, and to seek a solution and answer.
“We need some answers to be answered in the Assembly, so that the matter can be clarified to further depth and in more detail.
“The one-hour is not even enough to get five questions answered. (So) three days is definitely not enough.
“(Even) in Parliament, the time is one and a half hours, and they can only go through seven or eight questions a day,” he said.
In this instance, Hiew’s view is hardly unique. This is the way politics works in utopia, believed by those fed a diet of magic mushrooms, good triumphing over evil and similar fairy tales.
Hiew has failed to grasp the main aim of such sittings, which is to clear the names of those in power, of accusations of incompetence, corruption and other wrongdoings.
Hiew would have us believe that the role of politicians especially those in government is to govern properly and listen to the will of the people during such gatherings.
So, if he asks, what then is to be accomplished by such periodical assembly sittings?
In a word, nothing.
It’s merely there to show a bond of sincere fellowship between “the people” and their elected representatives. That’s the main goal of politics.
It is not about mediation of conflicting interests on concrete issues through deliberation and negotiation followed by a majority vote, but rather the affirmation of a bond of faith between the government and the people.
That’s what it’s all about in real life.
There’s no such thing as it being a forum to consider and deliberate on the people’s case for better living conditions or some similar nonsense.
Taking in the people’s case would merely slow down implementing the important work of government, whatever that is, even more.
The 13 opposition politicians in the state assembly are trying to weigh in on behalf of the voters but the government views them as obstructionists to “good governance” and must be stopped from talking too much.
The 13 – Pakatan Rakyat hold 12 and local State Reform Party has one – want to make their case so Sabahans can say they’re heroes because they’re speaking for us; we don’t like secrecy, and how dare you.
More time needed
But the fact remains, “the people” do not “weigh in” on whatever happens to be going on in the state assembly or parliament.
There is, first of all, no such thing as “the people” and expecting good governance to flow.
They have one shot at making a difference every election every five years or so and that’s it, they get back to doing whatever they were doing before that intermission.
Why would the government want to change something that works for them even if they risk falling in the next election by not paying attention?
Is that motivation enough to “listen to the people”, to quote Hiew?
“There are now 12 opposition assemblymen plus those with the BN, what chance do we have in getting our question to be tabled?” asked Hiew.
He pointed out that the current system gives elected representatives only five minutes each to speak.
“The question is what is the use of holding a State Assembly meeting, if the people’s problems cannot be brought up?” he added.
Maybe the language of the government and opposition is oversimplified and the grand progress they envision is beyond us.
There’s no quick-fix for this kind of institutionalized, poor-assembly-meeting-design problem. For the moment, it’s a disaster area.