PORT DICKSON: Senate president Tan Sri S. A. Vigneswaran today repeated his call for the Senate Reform Working Committee to look into the proposal to increase the length of senatorship term to at least five years.
He said the current three-year term was deemed insufficient as it was considered a learning period for the senator to learn about numerous aspects of law-making, including government systems and policies.
At present, senators are appointed on a three-year term with a likelihood of another three-year extension.
“To increase the length of the term to more than three years is not to enable the senators to earn more income or to waste the people’s money.
“The three-year term is just a learning period. If the term is not extended, then that would be it for the senator. All the experiences he gained during his senatorship will be wasted. So, we are training somebody who’s not going to bring any ROI (return on investment) to the people.”
He said this to reporters after the round table discussion on Senate reform here, which was also attended by Senate deputy president Datuk Seri Abdul Halim Abd Samad, Senate Reform Working Committee chairman Senator Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff and Canadian Senate Speaker, George J. Furey.
Vigneswaran also said senators who only served a term of three years were not eligible for a full pension.
“So, they were given three years to keep their mouths shut, to avoid asking questions. If they did, the party will not extend their senatorship term. In their mind, to get a full pension they must serve more than three years, so they keep quiet.
“I am not talking about getting any extension for anybody, no… because at the end of the day, the people will be able to judge whether this is a waste of money or will actually bring good results.
“In line with New Malaysia, I think this is the best time to make a change. In Canada, they adopted a system in which the appointment (of senators) was made by an independent committee…which will select and propose (suitable candidates) to the prime minister.
“It is probably unsuitable for implementation in our country right now, but what we can do is to ensure that those appointed as senators will really help in voicing the people’s problems,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mohd Yusmadi said the proposal would definitely be discussed by the committee.
“We are in the process of collecting feedback and experiences from other countries as some appointed their senators for life, some until the age of 75 and others, for a period of 10 years.
“In any case, we believe that what’s important is the people’s interests and that we should be able to serve the people through the Senate more effectively.
“There is a basis for the senatorship term to be discussed,” he said, adding that the three-day round table discussion on Senate reform, which began today, would gather all the necessary input before coming out with recommendations to the government.