Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Is the Cabinet above Parliament?
(L to R: Rais, Abdullah Badawi and Isa Samad donning the Baju Melayu)
The recent controversy over the so-called "alternative dress" worn by Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister, Rais Yatim, when he attended Parliament sitting prompted me to ponder whether the Cabinet is above Parliament.
As far as I am aware, it is not so. Cabinet ministers are not above Parliament and are subjected to the rules and regulations including the dress code when attending Parliament sittings.
So, it is correct for members of Parliament to raise the issue of Rais wearing the alternative dress instead of either a full suit or the Baju Melayu. It was fortunate that Speaker Ramli Ngah Talib "defended" Rais by saying that he gave permission to the minister to wear the said dress. But, as usual, Rais gave "questionable" comments outside Parliament. He accused Backbenchers Club chairman Shahrir Samad as seeking "cheap publicity" when the Johor Baru MP brought up the issue.
Rais could be the one seeking publicity, cheap or otherwise, when he attended Parliament sitting by donning the alternative dress knowing that it was not yet approved by the Speaker. To be a minister, one must either be a member of the upper house (Dewan Negara) or the lower house (Dewan Rakyat), and are subjected to the dress code and up to now, the alternative dress is not allowed to be worn in Parliament.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, headed by a paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house.
There are three branches under the separation of powers, namely:-
1. The Executive (Cabinet/Government headed by the Prime Minister),
2. Legislative branch (Parliament headed by the President of the Senate), and
3. The Judiciary branch (Federal Court headed by the Chief Justice).
If the Cabinet decided to allow the alternative dress, it is not binding to Parliament or the Judiciary, it is only binding to the members of the administration and the civil service. Parliamentarians and Judges have their own dress code.