Holding Malaysian MPs Accountable
(If you have a short attention span, just visit The People's Parliament.)
One of the most frustrating things about Malaysian Members of Parliament is how aloof they actually are when it comes to issues. These people are normally single- or no-issue campaigners.
You will never hear an MP telling you what he thinks about an Islamic theocracy, how best to address poverty among the Bumiputra, or whether we should be hiring more and better teachers.
If you're lucky, he might have one issue. This issue is normally "development", which is shorthand for "I'll throw a lot of money at you, and you people let me pillage and plunder the country for the next five years, okay"?
There are a few, mainly opposition, candidates who do have some other issues. I'm not sure what these are because of the total media blackout when it comes to this sort of thing, but I have a feeling they probably have to do with some raw nerve like an Islamic theocracy or Chinese education.
It's bad enough that our MPs don't seem to have an opinion on any of the issues they are elected to legislate on. What makes this really abhorrent is that nobody holds them accountable for their inefficient and incompetent manner of doing their job.
If our MPs were employees, their bosses would probably have sacked them ages ago. As it is, the few who are worthy of promotion such as Shahrir Abdul Samad — who votes with his principles rather than his party's cronies, and paid the price by losing his post as Chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club — actually get demoted. Meanwhile, the voters continue to return to office the morons who have no qualsm about calling their colleagues monkeys or yelling "you tak suka, you keluar dari Malaysia!"
Some might say that this is because the voters are complacent and apathetic. Perhaps this may be so, but I doubt it. I think the voters who are complacent and apathetic don't bother to vote. Those who do vote care in some way. They're just ignorant of how incompetent our MPs are.
I bet most Malaysians have no idea what a responsible wakil rakyat ought to do. Most of us are happy if he or she brings home some development projects and shows his or her face at some meaningless community event every now and then. (Most of us would really be happy with the resulting by-election if he or she dies or resigns, though, since it basically guarantees that every political celebrity will show up on our doorstep, shoving money in our faces.)
The fact is, a responsible wakil rakyat does have opinions about policies and issues, and does not have qualms about discussing them. A responsible MP will tell us what he or she thinks is best for the country, and how he or she will work to implement these aims through the legislative process.
Parliament is not just about electing some stuffy old people to stand up and "debate" (although it's actually more like amateur wrestling, minus the bodyslamming and multiplied by several insults). Parliament is about electing representatives who represent our views on the issues of the day, and who will hold our government accountable if it does not take those views into consideration.
If you think about it, most Malaysians actually have views that jibe very well with the views our MPs don't have (if we draw inferences from our MPs' views based on the laws they pass). Take corruption, for instance — almost every reform proposal the government has rejected is supported by a huge majority of Malaysians.
Most Malaysians want better teachers in our schools. Most Malaysians don't want any communities to be left behind by economic progress. Most Malaysians want every Malaysian to feel he has a place in this country.
And all these views seem to have been rejected by our government and Parliament. Our government refuses to hire enough teachers so we can have history classes taught by history teachers (apparently an information and communications technology is capable of teaching history, in the government's eyes).
Our government (and the silent MPs who said nothing about this) tacitly endorses an abrogation of the Constitution and an infringement of the rights of citizenship cherished by all Malaysians. Our government, and the MPs who have refused to call it on this, has ignored the stagnation of economic progress in significant segments of the Malay and Indian communities.
Yet, they are not being held accountable! If they were private sector employees, their bosses would have sacked them all. Our Prime Minister and his hapless Cabinet would go. The vast majority of our MPs would be out on the street, begging for APs.
So why isn't this happening? Because most of the Malaysians who vote don't recognise that it is possible to elect Members of Parliament who can represent our views on the issues appropriately, and criticise the government if it fails to listen to us.
How can we jolt them out of this ignorance? How can the voters who are already aware participate in the political process, making our MPs realise that they can no longer be lackadaisical lazy bums, and also helping our fellow Malaysians realise that we deserve better from our representatives in the country's supreme elected body?
There is a way. Lawyer Haris Ibrahim, who is of Malay and Ceylonese descent but describes himself as "Malaysian", has founded a project called The People's Parliament to hold MPs accountable.
The project is presently on trial in ten constituencies (mainly in the Klang Valley), but its scope will hopefully be expanded if it proves to be successful. A minimum of ten voters per constituency should sign up for the project to get under way in that constituency.
How it works is something that has already been explained. If you are eligible to vote in one of the relevant constituencies, please don't let this country die at the hands of our hapless government and Parliament. Please register with Haris, and do something for your country — a country that does not deserve to go to the dogs.