(Updated 9:30pm, 29 March 2011)
IN January 2010, The Nut Graph embarked on an ambitious project: to ask all 222 Members of Parliament (MPs) their views on various issues of national interest. MPs were asked, among others, their opinions on the Internal Security Act, whether Malaysia should be an Islamic or secular state, and what they believed their roles as MPs were. A total of 113 MPs replied and the results of the MP Watch: Eye on Parliament project have now been compiled in a book titled Understanding the Dewan Rakyat.
The book was produced in collaboration with the Malaysian Bar Council’s constitutional law committee through its MyConstitution campaign, and launched by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia on 23 Mar 2011. Other than the MPs’ responses, it also contains chapters on how Parliament works, the speaker’s functions and powers, and analyses of the MPs’ answers.
When addressing guests at the launch, the book’s co-editor Deborah Loh said she hoped that the book would help to refocus political debate on substantive issues. She also said the book would be a guide for voters, journalists, analysts, political parties and MPs, especially with the next general election expected to be called soon.
The MP Watch project and the book were supported by the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation. The book Understanding the Dewan Rakyat is published by ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and will be available at major book stores on a limited print run from mid-April. The book is 564 pages long and will cost RM95.
(Updated) Public forums with MPs as panelists will also be held in the coming months to promote discussion about the issues in the book. The first forum was held on Sunday, 27 March 2011, with MPs Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Serdang), Nancy Shukri (BN-PBB-Batang Sadong) and Chua Tian Chang (PKR-Batu) talking about the roles and challenges of an MP. The forum was held at the Leonardo’s Dining Room and Wine Loft, with about 60 people attending.
The discussion covered a range of issues that MPs face, such as their lawmaking roles, the constraints they face in terms of resources and in research for debates, as well as their views about what needs improvement in the parliamentary system. The MPs also fielded questions from the floor.