This essay discusses a presentation given by an Executive Director at Reform, a civil society organization in Malaysia, and Assisted Fellow at the Legal and Justification Center School of Law, Northern University of Malaysia. The presentation highlights the role of technology in enhancing parliamentary outreach to civil society in Malaysia, particularly following the 2018 general election. The essay will examine the key points of the presentation, including the achievements and limitations of using technology in parliamentary proceedings, as well as the need for innovation and adaptability in a time of crisis.
Reform is a civil society organization that focuses on parliamentary advocacy and research programs, aiming to enlighten the Malaysian public, especially the youth, rural communities, and women, about politics and parliamentary democracy. The Parliament of Malaysia is a bicameral Westminster system with a constitutional monarchy. Since the 2018 general election, there have been three changes in government, and the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected parliamentary proceedings.
Technological Means for Parliament Outreach
The presentation emphasized the importance of utilizing technology for parliament outreach to civil society. Currently, the Parliament of Malaysia provides full access to parliamentary proceedings via technology, allowing the public to watch live feeds of debates, parliamentary question time, and main chamber proceedings through various platforms such as YouTube, social media, and political party channels.
However, limitations exist in the access provided to the public. For instance, the public cannot view parliamentary select committee proceedings due to standing order restrictions. It is suggested that these standing orders should be amended to allow for live telecasts, giving the public access to all proceedings, including parliamentary select committee proceedings.
The presentation also discussed the challenges faced in organizing a hybrid parliament in Malaysia due to constitutional amendments, standing order limitations, and political will. In response to this, civil society organizations, including youth movements, organized a youth parliament to demonstrate that a hybrid parliament could be implemented without issues. This highlights the need for political will and adaptability in embracing new technologies and methods for parliamentary proceedings.
Engaging the Public Through Technology
It was stressed that the parliament must engage with the public through technological means, including parliamentary education, engagement meetings, and public consultations. Despite celebrating 62 years of parliamentary democracy, Malaysia lacks a dedicated parliamentary education office to facilitate proper outreach.
Reform has taken on the role of promoting parliamentary democracy and educating the public through various means, such as intellectual discourse, infographics, videos, research, and capacity-building programs for civil society organizations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reform organized online meetings and public consultations with members of parliament and parliamentary officials, demonstrating that where there is a will, there is a way.
In conclusion, the presentation emphasized the need for the Malaysian Parliament to be creative, responsive, and innovative in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of technology is essential in ensuring the continued operation and utilization of parliamentary democracy institutions. However, it is also crucial to acknowledge that the internet and other technological tools are not available to everyone, particularly in rural areas. The Malaysian government must work to reduce the technological divide between urban and rural areas to ensure that no one is left behind in the democratic process.
In light of the presentation, it is evident that technology plays a vital role in enhancing parliamentary outreach to civil society in Malaysia. The availability of live feeds of parliamentary proceedings through various platforms has allowed the public to stay informed and engaged in the democratic process. However, the standing order restrictions limit access to certain proceedings, highlighting the need for amendments to increase transparency and accessibility.
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