Want more seats in Parliament? Fight for them, women urged

Abdul Aziz Bari tells a seminar on parliamentary reforms today that dedicating special seats for women contravenes the Federal Constitution.

KUALA LUMPUR: A constitutional law expert has dismissed the idea of affirmative action to increase the number of women representatives in Parliament.

Abdul Aziz Bari told a seminar on parliamentary reforms today that dedicating special seats for women contravened the Federal Constitution.

Aziz, who is also Perak education, technology, science and environment committee chairman, argued that equality was at the root of the constitution, and women would need to fight for more parliamentary seats.

“If you want to be handicapped and get special positions, then that would be difficult,” he said.

He was responding to a question from a member of the audience who asked about the need for affirmative action to increase the quota of women in Parliament.

Currently, there are 32 female representatives, who make up 14.41% of the Dewan Rakyat’s composition of MPs.

Aziz said equality was the standard being promoted all over the world.

“We need to limit special treatment, especially in Parliament,” he added.

The seminar was held to discuss issues surrounding reforms in Parliament after the 14th general election that brought in the Pakatan Harapan government.

It was attended by MPs and members of civil society.

‘Government should be subservient to Parliament’

Aziz also argued that the government, by principle, should be subservient to Parliament.

That should be the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, he said.

“It (government) receives its support or mandate from Parliament,” he said.

He said it should be the legislature that monitored the government, not the other way around.

However, he noted, in the Westminster parliamentary system, which is the model for the Malaysian Parliament, the majority party in Parliament formed the government.

As a result, he said, the problem was inherent in the system itself.

He urged the judiciary, media and people at large to provide the “checks and balances” to make sure the parliamentary institution played its role effectively.

“When the media, which covers parliamentary proceedings, doesn’t understand the parliamentary system, non-issue news get highlighted,” he added.

On another matter, he said the privileges bestowed on MPs were to enable them to carry out their duties effectively.

“If they abuse the privileges, it’s up to the people to monitor the behaviour,” he said.

If a member of the House behaved inappropriately during a debate in Parliament, the people should vote them out in the next election, he suggested.

However, at times, an MP would still get re-elected despite having a negative track record, he added.

“That’s the problem with democracy. In the event such a person gets re-elected, then there must be ways devised to keep that person in check.”