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Monday, June 3, 2013

More than a rubber stamp by Lisa Goh - The STAR

The Dewan Negara, once a revered legislative institution, is perhaps now facing its toughest challenge yet to prove it is more than “a toothless rubber stamp”.
Following veteran lawyer and lawmaker Karpal Singh's call for the Dewan Negara to be abolished, one cannot help but wonder if the Malaysian Senate is still relevant today.
However, many, including past and current Senators, as well as those from the legal fraternity, believe the Senate is still necessary, albeit with reforms in place.
UiTM Emeritus Professor of law Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, for one, believes the Senate still has “tremendous potential”.
“There are about 80 countries in the world that have bicameral legislatures (about 124 countries have the unicameral legislature), and these upper houses perform various functions. Despite massive criticism, they have survived.
“In the United Kingdom (UK), the upper house has been criticised as being archaic, the leftover of an era gone by ... but instead of abolishing it, they've reformed it,” Dr Shad, a constitutional expert, says.
(Bicameral Parliament means having two chambers. A unicameral Parliament means having only one chamber.)
He believes Malaysia should do the same to improve its efficacy and bring it closer to the “constitutional ideal”.
Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, a past president of the Dewan Negara, concurs.
“I do not agree (with Karpal) that the Senate should be abolished. Already we are burdened by the yoke of so many things that are skewed and unbalanced (in the system). To make Malaysia a country with a unicameral system would intensify and aggravate the imbalances we have today,” says Abdul Hamid, who held office from July 2003 to July 2009.