Monday, March 16, 2009
The Legislative Council 2009
On Friday, my village Ketua Kampong came to where I was sitting at the mosque and asked me about some personal matters. We also talked in general about conditions of the residents in the village. He mentioned that some of the residents were not poor but 'susah' (in difficulty) and that is why they needed help.
That's an echoing theme throughout last Saturday's first session of written questions posed by the members on one side (the non-government) of the Legislative Council to members of the other side (the government). The questions were all about finance - allowances, pensions, TAP savings etc.
Everyone wants the status quo - the return of the pension scheme, allowances to be continued even after one has retired and even for those with pension to receive the full pension earlier than the current system which is after 15 years of pension. The position of the government is that it is unsustainable in the long run. If I am not mistaken the government is already paying around $300 million a year just for pensions and old age allowances. I do agree that the current TAP contribution rates is in no way sufficient to pay for one's retirement.
There were other national issues being raised such as public transportation, job security, economic issues, the condition of Brunei's eroding coastal line and the famous Temburong bridge. As a lay person I personally would not be very happy with the answers though as a government man, I understand why the answers were the ones given. My friend who sat next to me kept muttering and commenting about the somewhat technically correct answers but... To me, the most important thing obviously is that the public can raise these important questions in a public chamber through the appointed representatives.
Today, we look forward to the budget speech that will be given by the Second Finance Minister and after that the Council will go into committee. In committee, the members can raise any question related to the budget and the questions will be related to the budget in question. For instance, while discussing budget for the police, members can raise any issue about the police. This time the questions are not written therefore the minister concerned does not have advanced warning what questions which will be asked by members on the other side.
The committee session for the next few days, is very interesting and I urge those who has the time to go to the Leg Co to see for yourself the debates. If you want to hear your questions, you better know who your District representatives are or know any of the non-government representatives, email them or sms them what you need them to ask. Otherwise dress smartly and ask for a pass from the Legislative Council counter and see the debate for yourself.