Hannah Yeoh: With weak Opposition, strong backbenchers needed to keep govt on its toes

Loghun Kumaran
Yeoh said the backbenchers in the previous BN government failed to criticise the government of the day, adding that PH did not want to repeat the same mistake. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Pakatan Harapan’s Parliament backbenchers will have a vital role to play in providing checks and balances to the new government, especially if the Opposition is weak, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh said today.

The DAP MP, who was previously Selangor’s first state assembly speaker, said the coalition’s backbenchers needed to be brave and vocal during the coming Parliament sittings if PH wanted to form a self-correcting administration.

“After the full Cabinet is announced, the ministers will brief MPs and explain why certain things can be done and others cannot,” Yeoh said in a televised interview with Astro Awani.

“After doing their homework and listening to their constituents, the backbenchers must stand up. They must ask questions and raise issues that require clarification and improvements.”

Yeoh said this had been done in the Selangor state assembly before, as PH assemblymen questioned state executive councillors as part of a healthy democratic culture.

This, she noted, did not mean that there were any disagreements or political issues at play, as those involved would only be playing their role as parliamentarians or state assemblymen.

Yeoh said the backbenchers in the previous BN government failed to criticise the government of the day, adding that PH did not want to repeat the same mistake.

“When then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he was not MO1, they sang the same rhythm and followed blindly,” she said, referring to the Malaysian Official 1 referred to by the US Department of Justice.

“Khairy Jamaluddin used to side with Najib, but after BN lost he said he should have spoken up. We don’t want to make this mistake so we must be brave to criticise ourselves,” she added, referring to the Umno Youth chief and Rembau MP.

Yeoh said one of the most important improvements in the coming Parliament session was to ensure that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was led by the Opposition Leader.

She also underlined the importance of parliamentary select committees, which had played a vital role in maintaining checks and balances in the Selangor state assembly.

Yeoh said the committees would be able to conduct public hearings and summon government officers to come forward and provide testimonies — not only to find fault but also to find solutions and improvements.

She noted that the select committees should consist of assemblymen from both sides of the political divide to ensure their independence, adding that there was no problem if parliamentarians from PH criticised one another.

“In PH we have a culture of equal power sharing. Representatives from PPBM can criticise DAP, and DAP can criticise PKR, as this is the check and balance in the coalition,” Yeoh said.

“I feel many incoming parliamentarians understand their roles in select committees because they have been in the Opposition for so long. They will be consistent with what they have voiced for so long.”