Fixed-Term Parliament Act may be perceived as dangerous and undemocratic, says ex-MP Maria Chin Abdullah

A former Malaysian lawmaker says the suggestion to enact a Fixed-Term Parliament Act (FTPA) in the upcoming Parliament session in March raises several concerns, including keeping a government in power, even if it cannot deliver on its policies.

Maria Chin Abdullah (main image), who served as Petaling Jaya MP between 2018 and 2022, said suggestions that were of national interest needed to be discussed, and that there must be processes for debates to take place before jumping blindly to support piecemeal reforms.

The FTPA was raised following allegations of a so-called “Dubai Move” to topple Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government.

“I must stress that I agree that at this moment, Malaysia needs stability to move forward. But some questions need to be considered. Could this Act be used to keep a government in power, even if it cannot deliver on its policies? Will it create a deadlock in Parliament that could be dangerous to our nation, especially when critical action is required?” asked Maria Chin in a statement this afternoon.

“If the intention is to improve and to expand Parliamentary democracy, let us move towards a more systematic planning of short-, middle-, and long-term reforms.”

She said that after the 15th General Election in 2022, several reforms were suggested as stop-gap measures to prevent a political crisis.

“This won’t do. We have to be more strategic, to provide clearer direction on reform priorities. What happened to the fixed-term office of the prime minister, the Political Finance Act, and the Parliament Services Act?

“The Anti-Hopping Act was proposed within a very short time to end party-hopping, but unfortunately, its implementation failed badly, with glaring loopholes in the Act. We should remember that once passed, laws are not easily repealed or amended if something doesn’t work out.”

She added there were many reforms suggested by previous governments, but till now, the public remains unaware of their status.

“Due to the ‘Dubai Move’, we are suddenly looking at a proposal for a fixed-term government. Whose interests does this serve? This proposed law may be perceived as dangerous and undemocratic. Are our hands being tied once more? Are we being forced to accept corrupt and/or incompetent governments as we have for the past 60 years? These questions need due consideration.”

Maria Chin said supporters of the Act argued that several Parliamentary democracies in the West have adopted a fixed-term government Act, but they stopped short of pointing out the problems.

“One example is the United Kingdom, where a similar fixed-term government Act caused a political crisis, and led to a ‘paralysis’, at a time when the country needed decisive action. So we see, once more, how arguments are presented half-heartedly with a complete disregard for the lessons learnt.”

She added there should be reforms in key institutions, like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Election Commission, and the Royal Malaysia Police, and having a freer media, to counter corruption, abuse of power, and violations of civil liberties.

“We need these institutions as our check-and-balance if we are to even consider a fixed-term government. Unless these are improved, fixed-term government is not the solution.

“I would certainly want to see greater public discussions on the idea of a fixed-term government, as well as a clear reform plan before Parliament starts tweaking our sacred Constitution or laws.

“Bring the discussions, not just to the Select Committees or the Executive, but also to the public. Amendments that touch on the Constitution deserve public participation, and must not be left to the whims and fancies of the elite few. We need to move towards a more participatory approach, without fear or favour, if we are serious about democracy,” she added.

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