The Divisions of Parliamentary Systems
Our Parliament is divided into three components, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong also known as the Paramount Ruler, the Senate (Dewan Negara), and the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat). Malaysia practices Parliamentary Democracy with Constitutional Monarchy, with His Royal Highness as the Paramount Ruler.
Parliament has three divisions of administrative power, which are the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislative. The basic function of the Executive division is to pass and make amendments to existing federal laws, while the Judiciary division interprets the law and examines the government’s policies. Finally, the Legislative division makes the law by enacting acts of Parliament or approves the government’s expenditures and approves new taxes. These acts however, have to comply with the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Parliament also serves as the forum for criticism and the focus of public opinion on national affairs. For a person to be sworn in as a Member of Parliament (MP), he or she first must be nominated to stand for elections against another person. If he or she wins, then he will enter into Parliament as a MP.
Due to the importance of being an MP, it is a necessity to ensure they are people of integrity and do not misuse their authority. To ensure this misuse of authority does not occur, the Federal Constitution spells out a set of conditions that defines the criteria for the disqualification of a MP.
Additionally, the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 lays down the scope of the powers and privileges that are entrusted to an MP.
Article 48 states that the criteria for disqualification of a MP are if he or she is/has:
(a) Found or declared to be of unsound mind
(b) Undischarged bankruptcy
(c) Holds an office for profit
(d) Failed to lodge any return of election expenses required by law
(e) Convicted of an offence by a court of law and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than RM2,000.
(f) Voluntarily acquired citizenship of another country.
These conditions serve to protect the country from ineligible lawmakers. The first condition mentioned in Article 48(1) disqualifies any MP who is not mentally sound. It is important that those making the laws in a country are mentally stable and not crazy.
The following three conditions ensure that a MP does not take office for monetary reasons and is financially stable. If one is found to be in need of money or has committed a financial offence, he or she is more susceptible to fall into the hands of corruption. The next condition disallows convicted criminals from being a Member of Parliament. It is not proper for criminals to be involved in the law-making process of a country.
Finally, the last condition makes sure that all MP have allegiance towards Malaysia only, and that they do not have any interests in other countries.
Looking at the history of the Parliament of Malaysia, we take a look as some cases where a Member of Parliament lost his or her seat. Member of Parliament of Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo, the son of Democratic Action Party (DAP) president, Karpal Singh, escaped from the disqualification as well. However, he was suspended from being able to hold office in the Dewan Rakyat and stripped of salary and allowances for one year, as a result for making statements against the Deputy Prime Minister.
When he applied to lift his suspension, the High Court dropped his application to lift his suspension, stating it had no jurisdiction to challenge the motion passed by the Dewan Rakyat, but also ruled that Gobind was entitled to his remuneration including all his allowances and benefits as a Member of Parliament.
[ Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim]
The most notable case of disqualification was of the former Deputy PM Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who had a breakthrough in local politics as Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s protégé, but later turned into one of the biggest Mahathir management critics. Everything started with his bribery accusation, which he claimed that there is raging corruption within Mahathir’s administration.
However, the allegations of homosexuality was what made him lose his seat in Parliament or to be exact, the Cabinet. Anwar and adoptive brother, Sukma Darmawan Sasmita Atmadja and his former speechwriter Dr. Munawar Anees, were arrested due to involvement in homosexual acts. Five days later, the two were given a jail sentence of six months. Anwar was sentenced to six years in prison on the 14th of April 1999, for corruption and to nine years for sodomy on August 8, 2000. Because of this conviction, Anwar Ibrahim lost his Parliamentary seat and post of Deputy Prime Minister according to Article 48 (1)(e) of the Federal Constitution. However, the sacking of Anwar brought much international outrage and allegations of foul play, as Anwar claimed that the conviction was “political prosecution" and that he was a victim of “political conspiracy".
He served six years in prison until the Federal Court of Malaysia overturned the sodomy conviction. However, the corruption charges still stuck. He was released from prison in 2004, but was barred from politics for five years due to Malaysian law regarding criminals holding office.
In 2008, after the ban was removed, Anwar returned as a Member of Parliament when he won the Permatang Pauh by-election. However, the case is not closed yet as new allegations of sodomy surfaced in 2008, where an aide to Anwar filed a police report claiming that he had been sodomised by Anwar. Anwar might lose his Parliamentary seat again if he gets convicted.
[ Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin]
Another hot issue that happened recently was the polygamous marriage of Kinabatangan Member of Parliament Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin. Datuk Bung had pleaded guilty at the Gombak Timur Lower Syariah Court with the charge of committing polygamy without the consent of the court, and had been sentenced to 1 month of imprisonment and a fine of RM1000 by Syariah Judge Wan Mahyuddin Wan Muhammad.
The penalty nearly cost him the lost of his parliament seat in Kinabatangan, which falls under Article 48 1(e). After the judgment, he appealed to the Syariah High Court in Shah Alam. Until the High Court makes its decision, there is no final answer for this matter. From this point of view, the position of Datuk Bung as MP of Kinabatangan might be at stake, as the penalty might increase and fulfill the disqualification of MP under Article 48 Clause 1(e). At this stage, the Syariah Judge Wan Muhammad feels frustration towards Datuk Bung. As a lawmaker, he acted in such a disrespectful way to the institution of marriage and the Islamic legal system. He hoped that severe punishment will be imposed so that this will serve as a lesson and example for the public to respect the institution of marriage, especially the legal system of Islam.
[ Abdul Rahman Bakri]
Another example would be Sabak Bernam's Member of Parliament. Abdul Rahman Bakri is facing corruption charges for making eight claims of RM10,000 each, for events that purportedly never took place. If he is found guilty, he could be jailed between six months to 20 years, and fined not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, for each charge. Even if he is not imprisoned, the fine will be enough to disqualify him.
[ Lim Guang Eng]
Yang Amat Berhormat Lim Guan Eng, a Member of Parliament and Deputy Secretary General of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was charged for a few cases too.
On 28 February 1995, he was charged under the Sedition Act with prompting disaffection with the administration of justice by publicly criticizing the Attorney General's handling of a statutory rape case involving a 15-year-old schoolgirl and he criticized the former Chief Minister of Malacca, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik, and the decision of a court to place the alleged rape victim in "protective custody". Lim Guan Eng also was charged on 17 March 1995, on the Printing and Presses Publications Act because he had published false information by referring to the raped girl as an "imprisoned victim". On 28 April 1997, the Court found him guilty of both charges and sentenced him to the maximum fine of RM5,000 under the Sedition Act and RM10,000 (maximum fine RM20,000) under the Printing and Presses Publications Act. Yang Dipertuan Agong, under the advice of the Prime Minister, turned down Lim Guan Eng's petition for lifting of his disqualification from Parliament. Therefore, Mr. Lim Guan Eng lost his Member of Parliament status and was banned from participating in elections for five years, including the 2004 General Election. He also could not take part in the forthcoming legislative elections.
[ Lim Kit Siang]
Another case is of first elected Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka in 1969, Lim Kit Siang is one of the most senior members of the August House. In 1969 Kit Siang was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for 18 months. Ten years later, in 1979, when he was Elected Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya, he was convicted of five charges under Official Secrets Act for exposing an inappropriate arms deal between the government and a Swiss company. Lim was also one of the people arrested during "Operation Lalang" in 1987 for inciting racism. He spent some years in prison under ISA in Malaysia, which allows for two years of detention without trial at the pleasure of the Home Minister. The two-year sentence may, in practice, be extended indefinitely without any avenues for due process or appeal
[ Tian Chua]
A narrow escape occurred for Member of Parliament (MP) of Batu, Tian Chua, who bit and disrupted the duty of a policeman in front of the Parliament Building during a protest movement by BERSIH syndicate on the 11th of December 2007. His purpose was to deliver a memorandum to protest against the extension working age of the members of the Election Commission Malaysia (SPR).
However, the matter didn’t work out smoothly. Constable Rosyaidin Anuar and Tian Chua got into a fight and ended up in court. Tian Chua was charged for biting a police constable who attempted to stop him from entering the Parliament building. Tian Chua was charged with a maximum of 3 years in jail. However, the Magistrate Court of Kuala Lumpur gave him a sentencing of 6 months of imprisonment and RM3000 fine. The RM3000 fine was enough to disqualify the position of Tian Chua as MP Batu under Article 48 1(e).
As a response, Tian Chua made an appeal, and the court allowed the penalty to be carried out only if the appeal is unsuccessful. Therefore, Tian Chua remains in a risky situation where his position as MP of Batu will be disqualified if his appeal is unsuccessful.
[Datok Yong Teck Lee]
Another example of a Member of Parliament (MP) who had been disqualified is the Chief Minister of Parti Maju Sabah (SAPP), Datuk Yong Teck Lee. He had been disqualified from becoming the member of Legislative Assembly of Sabah and he also lost his position as MP of Gaya starting beginning the 18th of September 2002.
The decision of Federal Court stated that Datuk Yong Teck Lee was being disqualified from Legislative of Sabah State, and no small election will be carried out because the general election was to be held 15 months from now, according to the Federal Constitution of Sabah, Article 21(5).
Although he appealed regarding the decision made by Federal Court, the outcome remained the same. Therefore, he was barred for 5 years from election, and the main cause of this incident was that he had been involved in bribery during the State Election in 1999.
When there is an election, there would be involvement of money. He can be said to be an example of the unlucky ones as he had been ‘shot down’ after committing bribery in 1999. Although, there might be some who were lucky enough to get away with it, the Federal Constitution still serves as the benchmark for the MP's so they will have to keep their records clean.
The members of parliament are important individuals in Malaysia as they carry the voice of the common people to be heard by the parliament. They represent the democratic nation that Malaysia is. Any sort of problem or difficulty face by the citizen of Malaysia is voiced out by these very individuals so that a solution could be planned, devised and carry out.
Therefore, to elect such important people and to make sure they are the right one chosen by the citizens, the Federal Constitution is especially important in ensuring conditions and laws for Parliament members are to be fulfilled. As law-makers of the country, they do have to keep certain standards. Every citizen of Malaysia is affected by the decisions they make. In order to maintain the good name of the government and the nation, and also to gain trust from the citizens, Malaysia cannot afford to have incompetent individuals without merits as the representatives of the citizens as such actions will only bring downfall to Malaysia socially, politically and economically.
Law breakers should also be prohibited from being a Parliament member as it will reflect badly on the good name of government and the nation.