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Saturday, February 16, 2008

An MP's role - jaga longkang, settle saman?

By Dr Azmi Sharom
Associate Professor
Universiti Malaya

The Role of Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen

Government is divided into three parts. The Legislature which makes law; the Executive; which administers the country according to the law; and the Judiciary which judges any legal conflicts that may arise. The Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are separate from one another so that they can act as a check and balance. By making sure that power is not in the hands of just one body, a dictatorship can be avoided.

The role of Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen are similar to one another. They make up the Legislature at Federal and state level respectively. In other words they are the law makers. Members of Parliament make Federal laws and State Assemblymen make state laws. The areas that Parliament can make laws and the areas that the State Legislative Assemblies can make laws are determined by the Federal Constitution.

In order to fulfill this role, their primary duty therefore is to debate and vote on the proposed laws (known as Bills) that are put to them. The debating of Bills is an essential one because only through intelligent discussions are the best possible laws made. It is important therefore that Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen are well informed about the Bills they are discussing.

Another role that Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies play is that of a check to the powers of the Cabinet which is the Executive wing of government. They do this by questioning the Ministers about their activities during question time. In this way Ministers are under constant public scrutiny.

Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen should also be critical with the way that government policy is made and implemented. This is important because policy is not law and therefore is made totally within the discretion of the Executive. If they do not check on government policy, then the Executive will be unaccountable and abuse of power a possibility.
Every now and then, Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen may wish to raise a matter which is of concern to their constituency. Such matters can be discussed and legislated for or simply brought to the attention of the Executive. They are after all the main link between the citizens and the decision makers of the country.

Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen have to carry out their duties in a way that befits their position, as representatives of the people. They should not resort to uncouth behaviour and debate ought to be conducted with a degree of civility. They also must remember that in their oath of office, they have sworn to uphold the Constitution.

A Member of Parliament and a State Assemblyman who represents the wishes of his constituents, debates Bills intelligently and courageously questions Executive activities is one who can be said to be doing his job well.

The Role of Local Government Councilors
Local Municipal Councils are the lowest rung of government. They are in charge with the management of districts, towns and cities.

Together with the President of the Council, Local Government Councilors make up the Local Authority. Local Councilors are appointed by the state government. They are not elected.
The job of the Councilors is to assist in the management and the decision-making process of the Local Authority. They do this by making by-laws and by sitting on committees with specified tasks.

The functions of the Local Authority are fundamentally to take care of: local environmental matters, licensing of activities, public health, cleanliness of public areas, public amenities, social services and land use planning.

Issues such as street lighting, land development, road condition, drainage etc are the responsibility of the Local Authority. They are not the responsibility of Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen.

Because Local Councilors are involved in such important matters in the daily lives of citizens, they should be elected so that there can be accountability to the people.


The above document is a gem by the good doctor. Dr Azmi kindly agreed when The People's Parliament asked for a simple, clear definition of the scope of an MP, a State Assemblyperson (ADUN) and a Local Councilor.

It is an urgent piece of information which fills the void and confusion about what a Parliamentarian or State Assemblyperson does.

Too many have evaluated an MP based on how well he/she has tackled neighborhood matters like your clogged drains, your quit rent, and your parking summons.

And all this while, these very same MPs sit in shameful silence while bad, oppressive laws are rammed through in the House. They have betrayed the people they truly serve, resigned to the silly notion of a Party Whip. They are rubber-stamps, when they are called to be leaders and thinkers and shapers of culture in this land.

We, the people, need to realise the boundaries of an MP, ADUN this coming elections. We needed a clear criteria. And now you know - when you have a longkang problem, shake your Local Councilors' tree. Your MP has a national-level role to play - he/she makes sure your values are represented in the highest law-making office in the land. He/she is expected to debate, to fight for your cause.

ps And who's Dr Azmi Sharom? Remember this? And this.

Thank you, Dr Azmi. With your permission we'd like to extract the gist of your work here and make flyers for distribution.

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