Reforming the AssemblyThe latest legislative showdown only roves that the National Assembly should be at the top of the list for reform. Our legislature, tainted by violence, has now become an object of mockery. An advisory committee on improving its operations laid out several recommendations for reform. But this is just a start. We need to hold a public hearing and form a special committee to come up with a fundamental reform program for the National Assembly.
Reform should come in two areas ?? the Assembly system and the mentality of lawmakers. The advisory committee recommends reinforcement of the Assembly speaker’s authority by extending his term to four years and empowering him to decide on lawmaking timetables if the ruling and opposition parties fail to agree. It suggests that the legislative inspection of government offices that fall mainly in September be scheduled throughout the year. It also advises the budgetary committee to become a permanent body and suggests that various committees act through permanent subcommittees to improve efficiency. Its suggestion on easing the requirement of 20 seats in order to gain negotiating status should be considered after the next elections.
But if the mentality of politicians does not change, such system reforms will be of no use. The secretariat of the National Assembly and ruling Grand National Party are considering introducing a special law to prevent violence in the Assembly and strengthening ethics regulations. These approaches are necessary, but in reality have little effect.
In the latest incident where the entire membership of a party took part in violent clashes in the Assembly chambers, it is impossible to punish every one of them. Regulations need to be revised and overhauled. But what is more imperative is reforming their mentality. The newly-elected from both the ruling and opposition parties should be at the forefront. We need all the wisdom from legislators, political parties, civic organizations and academics for the Assembly’s makeover.