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An academy to train lawmakers about good manners?

MPs must be taught the importance of appreciating diversity, given that we live in a diverse society

Rais Yatim - Photo credit: arkib.gov.my
Rais Yatim - Photo credit: arkib.gov.my

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Dewan Negara President Rais Yatim recently proposed that an academy be set up to train elected representatives in what it takes to be good lawmakers before they even enter Parliament for the first time after winning seats in a general election.

An old hand in politics, Rais’ suggestion should be considered as an excellent idea that can come in handy in the context of a Malaysian Parliament that often runs riot with lawmakers mouthing expletives or nonchalantly changing seating arrangements.

Rais felt that the lawmakers should be equipped with, among other things, knowledge of legislation, socialism and the customs of various races in the country.

Indeed, parliamentarians should be equipped with, for example, the skills and tenacity to dodge conscious attempts by certain ministers, government politicians or even the house speaker to suppress searching and vital questions, which is part of legislative scrutiny.

In the training, novice lawmakers should be alerted to the importance of the concept of the separation of powers between the three branches of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

As the author of the book, Freedom Under Executive Power in Malaysia: A Study of Executive Supremacy, Rais is well poised to know and appreciate the dangers associated with a highly powerful executive that could threaten the independence of the other two branches of government, of which Malaysia is a good case study.

A powerful executive, as lawmakers would be reminded in the training programme, runs the risk of abusing its power when the mechanism of checks and balances becomes weak and erodes democracy.

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Lawmakers ought to be on guard against dark forces or negative developments that would undermine parliamentary democracy. Thus, at the academy, lawmakers should be impressed upon the important principles of integrity, trust, transparency and accountability as these would help build and strengthen the moral fibre of the politicians, which is lacking among many of them.

This is the kind of training that would make ordinary Malaysians be witness to politicians leaving important positions in government or government-linked companies purely on the basis of certain principles.

Hopefully, such training would also help prevent or at least reduce the occurrences of politicians hopping from one party to another, which could upset political stability in the country. After all, no one is too old to hop, skip and jump. Otherwise, such hopping could dampen the democratic process as the people’s votes and their mandate would be squandered when lawmakers switch political allegiances.

Of course, the lawmakers should also be warned about the dangers of dabbling in corruption, which has now become part of Malaysia’s political culture over the years. This is because certain ambitious politicians harbour a warped notion that the easy way to get rich is through politics – while impoverishing the poor. In this regard, a known corrupt politician may not necessarily be invited to give a lecture on corruption.

As for learning the customs of various ethnic groups in the country as suggested by Rais, it is incumbent upon the academy to do more than that. For instance, the importance of respecting and appreciating diversity and difference must be reinforced, given that we live in a diverse society.

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What’s more, the divisive politics of race and religion, which has become a favourite game plan among certain ethnic-based parties, should be made an example of bad politics that should be avoided by the lawmakers inr training.

Finally, lawmakers who find such training in the academy too demanding and challenging for their liking may want to mull over the need to drop out of the programme. More than that, they should also consider leaving formal politics altogether for the betterment of society and democracy. – The Malaysian Insight

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