Dewan Negara Today

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It has been alleged that the Dewan Negara today has deviated from the purpose envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. It will be noted that the very nature of the original composition of the Senate was conceived by the Reid Commission as a safeguard to constitutional amendments. In govt of Kelantan case, Thomas Chief Justice’s judgment serves to highlight the immense power that have been reposed in the central government ad of totally negligible voice of the States in the amendment process. Hence, the only mean that the states can have any say in the constitutional amendment is by way of their representative in the Senate. However, the amendments made by the Parliament to article 45 have rendered meaningless this safeguard of the Malaysian Constitution. Today, based on article 45, the ratio of state senators to Appointed senators is 26 to 44. It is obvious therefore that the safeguard as envisaged by the Reid Commission to act as a restraint upon the legislative power of amendment has been deprived of its effectiveness. It can be queried whether the amendment are contrary to the recommendations of the Reid Commission, which stated:‘Amendments should be made by Act of Parliament provided that an Act to amend the Constitution must be passed in each House by a majority of at least two-thirds of the members voting. In this matter the House of Representatives should not have power to overrule the Senate. We think that this is a sufficient safeguard for the States because majority of members of the state will represent the States.’ The term of office of a Senator is 6 years & is x to be affected by a dissolution of P. As the appointed Senators are now in majority, the Senate can delay & even ‘obstruct ‘ the legislative programmes of the diff party in power .In these circumstances, it would be extremely diff for the State Sentors to ‘block’ any amendment. The Upper house has been frequently critized & been looked upon as a ‘rubber stamping’ institution. – being criticized as a ‘roll-royce institution in a bullock cart country’ n ‘consolation for the politicians who lost in the election; the backway for the govt to place certain persons as ministers; rubber stamp for DR’ In the words of former Lord President of the Federal Court Tun Mohamed Suffian Mohamed Hashim, this is “contrary to the spirit of the original constitution which established the Dewan Negara specially as a body to protect in the federal Parliament, state interests against federal encroachments”. Increased powers of patronage

In practice, the appointments made “by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong” are on the advice of the Prime Minister under Art40(1). In addition, members theoretically elected by the state assemblies have been selected by party leaders at the federal level. The increased number of appointed members, coupled with the method of appointing Senators to create ministers, makes the Prime Minister a crucial figure in the composition of the Dewan Negara. The result is that membership of the Dewan Negara can become a significant bargaining chip in the realm of political power play. Barisan Nasional MPs have all given the Bill their respective thumbs-up. Critics have denounced the Dewan Negara as nothing more than a “rubber stamp”, with Senators supposedly following the command of party whips in the passing of new laws. According to a 2005 Star report, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz ordered 19 female BN Senators to vote for the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005. He did so despite the opposition raised by female Senators, adding then that though they were “free to debate” the matter, they had no choice but to vote on the Bill. Coalition politics

Within the framework of the governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional (BN), the post of Senator is often seen as a reward of a political party’s performance or membership of the governing coalition. “Parking”

Moreover, there...
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