Political drama has engulfed the nation, with the secret meetings, the prime minister’s resignation and the subsequent dissolution of the Cabinet.
What’s left standing now is the Malaysian Parliament, which will begin its first 2020 session come 9th March. Along with the commencement of Parliament are new laws, policies and amendments scheduled to be tabled.
1. Limiting the Prime Minister’s tenure to 2 terms
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 to limit Malaysia’s Prime Ministers to a maximum of two terms was tabled in Parliament for its first reading in December 2019. It was set to be debated in Parliament during the March session.
Besides the prime minister, the tenure of menteri besars and chief ministers are also proposed to be limited to two terms.
2. Restoring the status of Sabah & Sarawak as equal partners to Peninsular Malaysia
A Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, which will restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was essentially beat down in the 2019 Parliamentary session as it failed to get two thirds majority.
However, the former federal government had expressed its intention to carry forward with the amendments and retable the Bill in March 2020.
3. New law to fight sexual harassment
A specific legislation to combat sexual harassment is expected before Parliament in March 2020.
The Sexual Harassment Bill includes comprehensive definition of sexual harassment, more effective complaint and solution mechanisms, remedial elements, and penalties.
4. New anti-stalking legislation
For many years women’s rights and domestic abuse NGOs have been calling for an anti-stalking law to protect individuals, especially assault survivors. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) also highlighted that stalking often escalates to more violent crimes, thus the necessity of such a law.
In early 2019, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong concurred, stating that the act of stalking must be classified as a crime, because it can leave victims feeling threatened.
He then revealed that the policy paper and draft law had been prepared and awaiting final Cabinet approval at the end of December before it is expected in Parliament on March 2020.
5. New policy to address complaints at the civil service
The last cabinet had approved the setting up of Ombudsman Malaysia to function as an impartial independent body to solve public complaints against government agencies.
The Ombudsman Act will replace the Public Complaints Bureau as part of the check and balance of public governance and to ensure that citizens have access to an independent body to address complaints or disputes relating to misconduct, maladministration or lack of due process.
Datuk Liew Vui Keong also revealed at the end of 2019 that the law was in the final stages of drafting and ready for tabling in Parliament come March 2020.
What we’re unsure of
Besides the planned laws and amendments for the March 2020 Parliament session, the Pakatan Harapan government had also outlined several other policies that they planned to address.
Due to the dissolution of the Cabinet, combined with the unknown progress of these laws and amendments, their status now remains unknown.
1. Decriminalisation of suicide
The last official update on the decriminalisation of suicide is that the policy paper was being drawn up by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and that the amendments were expected in mid-2020.
2. Decriminalisation of drug possession
The Pakatan Harapan government had planned to decriminalise drug possession for personal use before the end of its first term.
In a News Straits Times article, former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly stated that this move was to prevent the stigmatisation of addicts and reduce incarcerations as neither was effective in solving drug problems.
3. Repeal of Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA)
The highly contentious law was under review by the former government and was set to be repealed and replaced with the new Freedom of Information Act in mid to late 2020.
4. Better protection for whistleblowers
Datuk Liew Vui Keong revealed that work on amending the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 had begun in 2019 and the amendments were scheduled to be tabled before Parliament in 2020.
5. Amendments to Employment Act
In August 2019, the Human Resources Ministry had expressed its intention to amend the nearly 70-year-old legislation to address issues related to discrimination at the workplace, paternity leave and working hours.
The amendments are yet to be brought to Parliament.
Follow our coverage on the latest following the dissolution of the Malaysian cabinet HERE.
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