Is the Senate An UMNO Preserve?

The Senators Club of Malaysia's secretary-general, Senator Rosli Mat Hassan, is clear in his mind that senators are appointed for their contribution to UMNO, not the National Front or the nation, and demands Senator Hamzah Mat Zain's resignation from the Senate since he switched his party affiliation from UMNO to Keadilan. "He was appointed a senator for his contributions to UMNO and if he has not stepped down, I suggest that he do so for he no longer represented the party," he said. Is he saying that his appointment was for his contribution to UMNO? Could he point me to the Malaysian Constitution where it says this? The Senate is composed of two senators elected by each state legislatures, and other appointed by the King for a maximun of two terms of three years each. An UMNO membership is not a requirement. In theory, senators are not appointed for their political affiliation, although in practice it invariably is. Senator Rosli's is one such. Senator Hamzah 'defected", according to the Bernama report, in contrast to the two Parti Bersatu Sabah state assemblymen who joined UMNO in Sabah recently, to Parti Keadilan Negara on 12 June.

The Senators clUb Of Malaysia (could its acronym be SCUM?) is an association of an exclusive club, formed to make the Senators more important than they are. That a club is needed to look after the interests of its legislative members indicates the difficulties senators have in dealing with its officials. So, the club secretary-general makes pointless (and wrong) statements like this one, while ignoring the larger issue. In Sabah, the UMNO-led administration bends over backwards to prevent PBS from submitting the unsigned letters of resignation all state assembly men and members of parliament give to their party leaders before being allowed to contest. The late Tun Mustapha Datu Harun and Dato' Harris Salleh, when National Front chief ministers of Sabah, used this devise when its members crossed over to the opposition. The state UMNO went to court to overturn a state law that prevents state assemblymen from leaving the party on whose ticket they were election. So, why he is so het up about it?

If he is, he is in good company. The minister of information, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob, believes only the National Front should have access to government media during the coming election campaign. It always has been that way, but in previous elections, some modicum of fairness was present, in which the opposition had some access to the electors to present their manifestors under controlled conditions. But in the past nine months, even that fig leaf of fairness is consciously whittled down in the official media. The government raises the ante without realising the damage it inflicts upon the body politic. The Malaysian government's complaint about the insidious foreign press would have been believable if the local media were not. News is presented in a contested framework, selective and selected for local political impact, which makes nonsense of its function as a disseminator of news. The first one hears of something developing is when some UMNO official attacks an opposition leader; the event sometimes not even making the newspaper. The Prime Minister is proud that the English mainstream newspapers,
but not the Chinese, Malay, Tamil newspaper, strongly support government policies. It is this view that is wrong about the local media. When uncertainty about the ground frames government policies, this sends shivers down the line. Which accounts for Senator Rosli's irrelevant outburst.

M.G.G. Pillai
pilla-@mgg.pc.my