KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — The 54 senators appointed by the defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) said they will remain in the Dewan Negara so they can fulfill their role as check-and-balance to the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition that now has majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
Unlike MPs, senators are appointed and are not required by law to step down even if there is a change in government.
The Star reported today an unnamed senior senator as saying that they found no reason to step down because they are not required to do so, a move that could potentially stall the new government from implementing new laws or carry out reform.
“There is no such law. As such, there is no need for us to go. We were appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, unlike Dewan Rakyat, where the representatives are voted in by the people,” he was quoted as saying.
“Why does the new government need to worry about us? Our role is to review legislation that has been passed by the lower House.
"If Pakatan is changing the law or making amendments to benefit the people, like GST, why should we oppose or delay passing it?"
Despite their refusal to step down, the same senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said BN senators will pose no threat to the Government.
"Nor would we want to sabotage the new administration. Our role is purely to see a check and balance in the Government,” he was quoted as saying.
There are 54 BN senators currently, 19 of whom were appointed at the recommendation of different state assemblies while the remaining members were picked by the previous administration.
Of the total, 30 are Umno senators, while 10 are from MCA and six from MIC.
Sarawak-based Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu has two, while Gerakan, the Liberal Democratic Party, United Sabah Party, People’s Progressive Party, Sarawak United People’s Party and United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation have one each.
This morning Malay Mail published a report highlighting the predicament the new PH federal government will face in the Senate.
Since BN Senators control the majority of the upper House, any plans to carry out reform or implement new laws could be stalled.
Removing them will also be challenging. Under the Federal Constitution, senators have robust tenures once they are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the prime minister’s recommendation.
Senators are not automatically removed by the dissolution of Parliament and may remain for their entire three-year term, as provided by Article 45 (3) of the Federal Constitution.
Each senator draws a monthly salary of RM11,000. Many of the 54 are either midway through their term or were appointed about six months ago.
There are 66 senators serving the Dewan Negara currently, with the rest comprising four Independents, two each from PKR, DAP and PAS, and one each from the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress and Malaysian Indian United Party.
Under Article 48 (1), senators may only be removed if they are declared to be of unsound mind, bankrupt, found to have engaged in corruption, to have contested for a federal or state seat, or acted as an election agent.
They may also be removed for failure to lodge any required returns of election expenses within the required time, if they are sentenced to no less than a year’s imprisonment or fined no less than RM2,000, if they hold the citizenship of another country, or pledge allegiance to one.
But a few constitutional experts believe there is hope for PH to win over these senators while some believe resistance by the Senators, within reason, could even be healthy for the state of the country’s democracy.