OCTOBER 8 ― A historic moment it was.

When Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff decided to refer the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill 2019 to the Select Committee, the Bill is perhaps only the sixth Parliamentary Bill to have been referred or committed to the Select Committee since independence.

A Parliamentary Bill goes through four stages in each Dewan: First Reading, Second Reading, Committee Stage and Third Reading. The First, Second and Third Readings are generally well-known to parliamentarians and the public. It is in the Committee Stage that one locates a “Malaysian situation”.

What do I mean by this? Perhaps the following extracts from Wan Arfah Hamzah and Ramly Bulan’s An Introduction to the Malaysian Legal System (2003) at page 46 can explain:


Committee stage

Most Bills are automatically referred to the Committee of the Whole House, ie. at the end of the Second Reading the Dewan, without the necessity of a motion, resolves into a committee. Very rarely (emphasis is mine) is a Bill referred to an ad hoc Select Committee (which has the power to obtain the views of the public). This occurs when the Dewan agrees to a motion to that effect, moved by any member after the Second Reading. Since Independence, only five (again, emphasis is mine) Bills have been committed to Select Committees, among them the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Bill in 1974 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) (Amendment) Bill in 1984.

This “Malaysian situation” had in fact been noted as early as 1962 by the great scholar, observer, popular teacher and good friend of Malaysia, the late Professor RH Hickling. In a public lecture delivered on Merdeka Day of that year, he said:


Only one of the many important measures put before the House of Representatives since its inception in 1959 has been referred to a Select Committee: and the observer might ask what momentous Bill was singled out for this distinguished treatment. This was in fact the Minor Offences (Amendment) Bill of 1961, almost two pages in length, and the point in issue was whether, on the assumption that it is the nature of dogs to bite postmen, compensation should be paid to persons injured by dog-bites, regardless of the doctrine of scienter.

The great man, who crafted the abolished Internal Security Act (ISA), then went on:

That slightly more important matters have not gone to Select Committees is due, I should say, not to any distrust of such procedure, but rather to an anxiety on the part of Government to stand by what is drafted and to continue the task of government with as little delay as possible. Nevertheless, failure to use the procedure of the Select Committee has occasionally meant that the full House of Representatives has proved a somewhat unwieldy committee to review details of a Bill.

So, if it was momentous for the Minor Offences (Amendment) Bill of 1961 to have been referred to the Select Committee, it should be even more momentous for the IPCMC Bill 2019, the first in thirty-five years.

The IPCMC Bill 2019 has been much scrutinised, commented and criticised. It has even been rejected for being toothless.

But reference to a Select Committee is a huge step. It allows a Bill to be scrutinised, especially if the Bill is complex, controversial or has wide-ranging impact. It also enables the details of the Bill to be discussed in a less formal manner but in a definite order, where each and every clause (in the order in which they appear), and schedules and preamble (if any) will be reviewed.

It is thus much hoped that the Select Committee would do the above.

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