By Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar 

Special Ministerial address of 'Parliamentary and Legal Reforms Towards Enhancing Governance and Economic Prosperity' at the 2021 Asia Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--My sincere appreciation to the organizers, who have asked me to deliver a keynote address for this event.

I was informed that this Forum focuses on the “economy” and this subject matter is somewhat far from my job as the Minister in charge of Parliament and Law.

However, I take it as a challenge to convince all of you here today that the reform agenda I propose is very much related to the economy and our everyday lives.

Malaysia has been bombarded continuously with issues ranging from health crisis to political instability all leading up to economic volatility.

I must say that the people are rather tired of all this and are looking for change so that they can move on with their lives.

When I took office on 30 August 2021, I was very certain of the change agenda.

This is because my 30 years of being in the public service has given me the insight to recognize problems and issues as well as provide solutions for them.

The country needs some bold reform to help propel us back to not only normalcy but beyond that. 
Whilst we are fighting to restore the healthcare system so that the “rakyat’ is not negatively impacted, we are also fighting to ensure economic stability during this unprecedented time.

I would like to draw your attention to the role of good governance and effective institutional mechanisms in ensuring economic prosperity for Malaysia.

In our effort to restore stability we must not forget the importance of constitutional supremacy and parliamentary democracy. Constitutional supremacy is a significant factor in the country's improvement.

The concept of constitutional supremacy is provided by Articles 4(1) of the Federal Constitution. The powers of the parliament are also enshrined in the Constitution; therefore, it is our duty to ensure that parliamentary democracy is always maintained.

At this juncture, allow me to stress the importance of upholding the rule of law. As mentioned by Aristotle “the law should govern”. The rule of law is a critical factor for the advancement of democracy.

By strengthening the rule of law, we protect the rights of all people, advance inclusiveness, and limit the arbitrary exercise of power. The rule of law also includes democratic reforms and that is exactly what the government of the day is doing.

Allow me to explain a little bit more about a few of the reform agenda I have in mind which I believe will play an important role in economic prosperity.

Parliamentary Reform

The role of Parliament in maintaining political stability, enhancing integrity, and strengthening its role as an effective check and balance mechanism to the government is vital.

Therefore, I believe that transformation of the parliament is of paramount importance as it helps in not only restoring political stability but enables us to handle the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.

This provides resilience to the community and businesses in dealing with the current economic situation. Having said that, there are several reforms that I wish to introduce which I believe will bring substantial changes in the administration of the parliament.

a. The enactment of a Parliamentary Services Act

This act was first enacted in 1963 and had allowed Parliament to act as a truly independent body, running its own affairs, selecting its staff and controlling its budget and expenditure. However, it was repealed in 1992 with parliamentary affairs subsequently being placed directly under the Prime Minister’s Department.

I believe it is important for this legislation to be re-enacted allowing full independence for the parliament and ensuring that the august house upholds the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary. It also allows laws to be better scrutinized where parliamentary democracy is maintained through strengthened Parliamentary Select Committees.

b. House of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952

There is a need to amend this law since it can be considered an archaic law. Issues pertaining to powers and privileges of the Houses of Parliament need to be re-visited and have to be “fit for purpose”. The Parliament has the right to make its own rules and has unquestioned authority over the procedures it employs over its members.

This includes code of ethics that can be introduced and enforced through the House of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act. The introduction of Code of Ethics will ensure good behavior and integrity among the members of the house.

These rights are essential elements not only to ensure parliamentary independence but also to ensure its credibility that earns trust and confidence from the people.

Law Reform

Besides the above Parliamentary Reform, there is an immediate need for Law Reform in order to ensure confidence and good governance in Malaysia.

I must stress that there are many laws that require reform; however, the following are a few reforms that I consider important at this point in time.

a. Anti-Hopping Law

Anti-hopping laws are required in order to enhance political stability, public confidence in the democratic process, and ensure respect for the decision made by the electorate. There are already countries in the world like India, Singapore, and the UK that have anti-hopping/anti-defection laws or amendments to related laws including the constitution that provides for expulsion or vacation of seats of hoppers.

In Malaysia, we need proper and adequate engagement on what is actually required for our country. This, I must say, is not an easy task as politicians and political parties all have their own views and opinions on this matter.

b. Limiting the Prime Minister’s term to not more than 10 years

This is an important reform as it provides reassurance to the “rakyat” that no one person can stay in office for too long. It also reduces the possibility of corruption and other actions like nepotism and cronyism.

This also allows for change in leadership policymaking and provides opportunity for fresh ideas and healthy competition whilst strengthening democracy. In Malaysia, this is a constitutional amendment which requires a 2/3 majority support in the Dewan Rakyat, as such, the buy-in from all quarters is important to move this reform forward.

c. Implementation of the Voting age to 18 years old and automatic
registration of voters

The Parliament had on 16 July 2019 passed the voting age in Malaysia to 18 years old. However, there are many technical and legal impediments that hinder this implementation.

The recent High Court Ruling in Sarawak on 3 September 2021 decided that the government needs to fulfill its  duty by implementing the voting age for Malaysians to 18 years old and the automatic registration of voters to be done simultaneously by 31 December 2021.

I had also mentioned in parliament on the 21 September 2021, that the government will fulfill this decision. The Election Commission of Malaysia is working very hard to ensure that 18 years old voting age and automatic registration of voters can be done by the given timeframe. This includes amending subsidiary legislation and ensuring logistical and infrastructural requirements all over Malaysia are in place.

d. Constitutional amendments in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963

The government has been negotiating on many issues under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. However, I believe that there has been nothing substantial that came out of these negotiations.

My focus as the Minister in charge of Law is to look at substantial legislative amendments to the constitution which would provide clarity to the position of Sabah and Sarawak as well as the people particularly the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

Over the years there has been erosion in Sabah and Sarawak rights as stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Among them include what has been stated in article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution - States of the Federation.

I see this as a top priority to be amended. However, amendment of this particular article alone is not enough to really enshrine  the spirit of Malaysia Agreement, without amending article 160(2) - Interpretation of the Federation.

Further, there are some problems in article 161A (6) and 161A (7)– definition of the term “native” in 1963. Then in 1963, the research was not complete, therefore what was being spelt out in the Federal Constitution was definitely far from correct.

This ought to be amended in order to give confidence to the people in Sabah and Sarawak, in determining who are the natives and who are not, within the context of the Federal Constitution.

These are also constitutional amendments that would require 2/3 majority support in the Dewan Rakyat and for this, further negotiations and understanding is required between the Federal Government and both the States of Sabah and Sarawak.

The government is for the “rakyat”

It makes me ponder not as a politician but as an ordinary citizen, what does the “rakyat” want? The people want transparency, accountability and a trustworthy government that “delivers”.

This is no normal situation, we are all caught in a global crisis and the people are only hopeful that whoever runs the country is able to give them back their freedom, their happiness and their lives.

Economically people have lost their jobs and their livelihoods and mental health have been affected greatly.

The previous Perikatan Nasional government had initiated several reforms and assistance namely the Temporary Measures to Reducing the Impact of COVID-19 Act 2020 and the setting up of the National COVID-19 Mediation Center to help the “rakyat” solve contractual disputes.

These initiatives are under my purview as the Minister in charge of Law. Besides, the government has continuously been introducing various stimulus packages that could assist and reduce the economic impact felt by the people at this trying time.

Numerous versions of Lockdowns and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) were introduced to ensure that the people stay safe and protected.

The current government will do more for the “rakyat” and we believe that to do that we need the support from all quarters. The last thing the people want is political bickering and backbiting.

What they want is a caring government that thinks about restoring the country back to normalcy again.

As you may be aware, in pursuit to restore political stability, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the opposition on 13 September 2021. 
The government believes this  will bring lawmakers together to discuss issues that are of importance to the people, especially in tackling the effects of COVID-19.

This also paves the way for bi-partisan involvement where politicians put their differences aside to discuss, give views and suggestions for the benefit of the people and country.

I must say that this step is one of a kind in the history of Malaysia and it is done solely to benefit the “rakyat” who have been badly affected by the effects of the pandemic both economically and socially.


Transformation in the government sector embodies noble values and solidarity across religious, racial and cultural backgrounds in the context of Keluarga Malaysia. Malaysia’s immediate priority is to sustain the management of the ongoing pandemic and its effects on individuals, households, and businesses.

Protecting the lives and health of citizens is vital to ensure a safe resumption of economic activities and the prevention of a protracted economic downturn.

The current government will continue to deliver more for the people and my role as the Minister in charge of the portfolio of Parliament and Law, is to ensure that there is political stability through good governance and  parliamentary democracy.

This will ensure that the government continues to make sound policies that would serve the people and provide them economic and social benefits with minimum obstacles.

With this I call upon all of you here today to support and work with the government towards a better tomorrow. 
*Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law)*