Suggesting this today, Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (SCAH) civil rights committee chairperson Ser Choon Ing said this would also enable participation in policy making.

“(At present) none of them (the senators) come from civil society groups. NGOs should have a place in Parliament,” he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Also present were SCAH president Bong Hon Liong, deputy president Tan Yew Sing and the vice-presidents.

Noting that Parliament should fully represent the people, Ser said this may not be achieved even with the presence of opposition members.

He also said that members of civil society and NGOs should be included in the consultative committee of the state government.

Ser urged the government to focus greater attention to the effectiveness and quality of governance under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010).

Memo ready

The suggestions are contained in an eight-page memorandum on good governance that was distributed to reporters.

SCAH will submit the document to the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department in two weeks.

Another suggestion to enhance governance are to provide incentives and subsidies to civil societies and NGOs to boost social development and the public interest.

In this respect, SCAH also suggests that NGOs should be given tax rebates, training and adequate infrastructure.

“Budget 2004 allocated RM9.64 million to NGOs. However, NGOs who are critical of the government may not receive the allocation,” according to the memorandum.

It points out that civil society groups like Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Aliran, Women’s Development Collective and Sisters In Islam are often neglected in terms of their needs.

Yet these organisations contribute to development by taking up issues of basic human rights and social justice, and also monitor the government – both of which are crucial elements of good governance.

SCAH further proposes that a ‘parliamentary commission system’ be established to oversee and enhance the functions of Parliament, and that press freedom be guaranteed through the prevention of interference by those in government and politics.

The memorandum further notes that improved co-operation between the state and civil society would complement governance, as this will result in a ‘win-win’ scenario based on mutual empowerment.

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