IT’S A HIGHLY-DI­VI­SIVE

They only work when they are con­fined to nar­row civic mat­ters, not com­plex gov­er­nance

New Straits Times - - News -

SARAWAK leg­isla­tive assem­bly Speaker Datuk Amar Mo­hamad As­fia Awang Nas­sar is per­haps bet­ter noted when he holds court within the hal­lowed sin­gle cham­ber of the river­side assem­bly build­ing.

He prob­a­bly is in his best lawyerly el­e­ment on the rare oc­ca­sions he held court out­side the assem­bly cham­ber, as he did on May 16, ex­plain­ing to the me­dia why the leg­isla­tive branch is “supreme” in our sys­tem of govern­ment vis-à- vis the courts and the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

As­fia was serv­ing no­tice that he will act to strike out any move to have the assem­bly’s de­ci­sion to dis­qual­ify an elected assem­bly­man chal­lenged in court.

“The leg­isla­tive assem­bly is the fi­nal ar­biter in any ques­tion aris­ing as to whether a mem­ber of the assem­bly has be­come dis­qual­i­fied for mem­ber­ship,” he said.

That was not the only drama in the cur­rent assem­bly sit­ting.

The Speaker made it al­most his first or­der of busi­ness on the sec­ond day of the sit­ting to dis­miss five of six op­po­si­tion-ini­ti­ated mo­tions on var­i­ous grounds, while re­serv­ing the last to be thrown out by ma­jor­ity vote of the en­tire assem­bly.

Thus, was nipped in the bud a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous is­sue since the mo­tion voted down had called for a de­bate on pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to al­low for a cit­i­zens-ini­ti­ated ref­er­en­dum (CIR).

In ex­plain­ing why he in­tro­duced his pri­vate mem­ber’s bill on the sub­ject ear­lier, Batu Lin­tang assem­bly­man See Chee How had said: “The CIR, which is ini­ti­ated by the peo­ple, will em­power them to play a con­struc­tive role for a more vi­brant and trans­par­ent demo­cratic sys­tem in Sarawak.

“On the other hand, be­ing an in­dica­tive ref­er­en­dum, the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum is merely in­dica­tive of the views held by the peo­ple. The govern­ment is not

Like Brexit, hold­ing a cit­i­zens-ini­ti­ated ref­er­en­dum may seem to make lit­tle dif­fer­ence to what is­sues peo­ple re­ally care about or un­der­stand.

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