Wan Junaidi: New Parliamentary Select Committee on Law to ensure laws align with Federal Constitution

A new Parliamentary Select Committee on Law will be set up to ensure every Bill tabled in the Dewan Rakyat is thoroughly scrutinised before being brought to the Dewan Negara.

Dewan Negara President Tan Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the move was essential to ensure Bills presented in the Dewan Negara, were in line with the Federal Constitution.

Wan Junaidi said the matter had been discussed at length with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“The whole idea is to scrutinise every Bill proposal to see if they are consistent with the Constitution. It is also to check if (the Bills) are rakyat, and business-friendly, and if they’re good for the nation,” said Wan Junaidi, in an exclusive interview with Twentytwo13.

Wan Junaidi, a former Law minister, said instructions will be given to the Secretary of the Dewan Negara that every Bill tabled in the Dewan Rakyat must be copied immediately to the Dewan Negara to enable the committee to start work as quickly as possible.

“(Since I was appointed Dewan Negara president in June), I told the members of the Dewan Negara that there will be no politics here and that I was going to improve the existing system and make it better.

“This select committee will be backed by researchers and lawyers. I am going to pick mostly lawyers from the Senate to chair and sit in the committee, without ignoring the expertise and special knowledge of those in commerce, the environment, and other sectors,” he said.

As an essential component of Parliament, the assent of the Dewan Negara, is necessary for the passing of all Parliamentary legislation. Through its legislative function, the Dewan Negara can revise, improve, or delay Bills from the Dewan Rakyat.

However, in the event of unresolved differences between the Dewan Negara and the Dewan Rakyat, as warranted under Article 68 of the Federal Constitution, the Dewan Rakyat can bypass the Dewan Negara after one month (in cases involving money Bills), and no less than one year (in the case of non-money Bills).

The Dewan Negara, which serves as the upper house of Parliament, provides a more objective and detailed examination of legislative proposals, as it is less political.

Wan Junaidi, who is also a former MP and Deputy Dewan Rakyat speaker, said there have been Acts of Parliament passed previously that were contrary to the Constitution, as far as Sarawak was concerned.

He cited the Environment Quality Act 1975 as an example, where the federal government had no authority to legislate, as matters concerning the environment came under the jurisdiction of the state.

He said although Article 75 of the Federal Constitution states that if any state law is inconsistent with federal law, the federal law shall prevail and the state law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void, and that it must be read together with the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

“The Ninth Schedule provides a list of matters that come under federal jurisdiction, but the environment is not on the list,” said Wan Junaidi.

As such, Wan Junaidi said, in line with Article 77, the state legislature shall have powers to make laws with respect to any matter not enumerated in any of the lists set out in the Ninth Schedule, not being a matter in respect of which Parliament has the power to make laws.

“Legally speaking, Parliament does not have the competence to legislate on the environment.”

“(But) I am sure no MPs debated on it. Because they do not know. This is legislator ignorance and there is no depth of knowledge.”

He said another matter that Parliament ought not to have legislated, was matters concerning tourism.

“This was done by (Tun) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad). He added tourism to the federal list (under the Ninth Schedule). It was not there before.

“Legally speaking, it’s wrong, as the consent of every state needs to be derived if one plans to transfer state rights to federal,” said Wan Junaidi.

“How did the legislature manage to do so? There must be a law passed in the state assembly to request federal to do so, in line with Article 76 (c) of the Federal Constitution. Do you know if it was done? I can guarantee you it was not done … it is in contrary to the Constitution.”

A third example, he said, was the Bintulu Port Authority Act 1981.

“If you look at the Ninth Schedule, the port is also a state matter. I was told that back then, there was communication, discussions and a letter of consent sent by the then chief minister agreeing to the establishment of the port.

“But the chief minister does not represent the Legislative Council of Sarawak. The chief minister, no matter how powerful, has no authority to legislate on behalf of the state legislative council allowing for the federal government to pass a law to establish Bintulu Port.”

Asked if he viewed all these laws then to be null and void, Wan Junaidi replied: “Yes, right from the very beginning”.

Wan Junaidi cited the current lack of understanding of the law by Members of Parliament and the constant politicking in the lower house of Parliament warranted the setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Law.

“Our MPs … are not updating themselves with sufficient knowledge … they are not equipping themselves on how to be effective legislators,” he said.

“You must know your role. It all goes back to knowing your role,” said Wan Junaidi.

“MPs are speaking based on perception all the time. It’s not based on the actual implications of the subject matter before them.

“For example, when laws are introduced, MPs are supposed to know how these laws will affect the nation, people, and perhaps his (or her) constituencies.

“The debates ought to (revolve) around these points, not about another character. We have got to talk about this (the law) but we are not.”


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