Affirming parliamentary democracy in Selangor — Bersih 2.0

SEPTEMBER 23 — While we understand the regrettable difficulties experienced by all parties in dealing with the Selangor crisis, Bersih 2.0 reiterates our principled stand on the appointment of the Selangor Mentri Besar, that the head of government must be nominated by and accountable to the majority party/coalition support as per Westminster constitutional norms that underline our Constitution.

We maintain that the sanctity of Westminister parliamentary democracy, the very basis of constitutional monarchy, must be upheld at all times. The authority of the ruling party/coalition over the government must be firmly established to ensure responsible governments.

Institutions key to parliamentary democracy - legislature, executive and political party – and their relations must be strengthened to prevent in the future failure of any ruling party/coalition in nominating, holding accountable or removing the head of government. This will not only prevent the replay of the 2014 crisis for Selangor, but can also serve as a positive model for the Federal Government and other states.

Moving forward, Bersih 2.0 recommends the following reforms to be carried out by the Legislature, Executive, and the ruling coalition (Pakatan Rakyat) of Selangor:

1.   A democratic process should be established for all state assemblypersons of the ruling coalition — through their caucus — to elect their leader, who will unquestionably enjoy the majority support of the Legislature and whom the Sultan can appoint as the Mentri Besar without any need of royal investigation.

This would allow the ruling coalition to remove any Mentri Besar that defies the coalition’s will or to nominate any replacement in the event of vacancy, caused by resignation, death or other causes. That the Mentri Besar will be accountable to his/her party colleagues in the legislature will ensure greater responsiveness of the Mentri Besar to the coalition, which can in turn take the responsibility in the election for the policies and governance carried out by the Mentri Besar and his/her government.

2. Within the Executive Council, the power of Mentri Besar and other members should be properly structured to ensure that the Mentri Besar can lead as the “first among equals” but cannot act dictatorially in disregard of his/her cabinet colleagues.

3. The Legislature should be further empowered to ensure comprehensive and effective scrutiny not just on the Mentri Besar and the entire Executive Council, but also all local governments, government agencies, statutory bodies and Government-linked companies accountable to the State Government. The standing and select committees like SELCAT should be affirmed and increased according to need. The Legislature should have its own administrative service including a professional research team and a budget commensurate to its function.

4. The governance of the Mentri Besar Office, Executive Council, Legislature, and all local governments, government agencies, statutory bodies, government-linked companies of Selangor should be democratised in line with open government practiced in over 60 countries, by

(a) maximum access to information and disclosure about governmental decisions, activities and finance, with systematically collected and regularly published data

(b) promotion of maximum, equal and non-discriminatory public participation of all stakeholders – including women, ethnic, religious, linguistic, physical and lifestyle minorities; professional bodies; local communities where development projects are concerned — in public decision-making and policy formulation, which will enhance policy impact and satisfaction as well as citizens’ sense of ownership.

As the Rakyat is increasingly losing faith in the electoral process and feeling alienated that their will does not matter in governance, the Pakatan Rakyat must undertake bold steps to restore their faith in elections, democracy and open government. Selangor after the painful crisis should emerge stronger to lead the nation forward.

* The Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0, which comprises Maria Chin Abdullah (Chairperson), Masjaliza Hamzah (Treasurer), Farhana Abdul Halim, Jannie Lasimbang (Sabah Vice-chair), Ahmad b. Awang Ali (Sarawak Vice-chair), Abd Halim b. Wan Ismail (East Peninsula Vice-chair), Thomas Fann (South Peninsula Vice-chair), Simon Lee Ying Wai (Central Peninsula Vice-chair) and Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon (North Peninsula Vice-chair). 

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.