As a former British colony, Malaysia has inherited the British Westminster model of parliamentary system and is also a member of the Commonwealth. Before Malaya gained its independence in 1957, the Reid Commission had drafted Malaya’s constitution which set out its political, economic, religion and cultural foundational system. Particularly for Malaysia, the British and Indian models of Westminster parliamentary system serve as its main reference point.
After 50 years of political change, Malaysia’s variant of Westminster parliamentary model has changed substantially from its original creation. There is nothing wrong of having these changes, as all forms of governing system in the world inevitably undergoes changes due to the country’s population composition and characteristics and also as a result of domestic and external societal developments.
The Westminster model of parliamentary system emphasizes the ‘Rule of Law’ as opposed to ‘Rule by Law’ and also on the check and balance of the three branches of powers. The judiciary is protected under the constitution and balances the executive and legislative arms of powers.
In addition, unlike other countries that practices democracy such as France, the Westminster system’s judiciary arm may interprets its laws (especially where it concerns matters regarding the country’s constitution) based on past precedent cases as well as references to other Commonwealth countries’ legal interpretation.
Even though the separation of power in the Westminster model is not as obvious as the American presidential model, the Westminster model does gives utmost recognition to the opposition parties. In some instances, the deputy speaker of the legislature and chairmen of special parliamentary committees are selected from the opposition parties.
The legislative arm has a very important role in the Westminster system of governance. It is not supposed to be a rubber stamp; it is the symbol of the government. The name Westminster is derived from the United Kingdom’s site of its parliament. This shows the importance of the legislature in the governance system of a country. Report by Lam Choong Wah. Translated by T. K. Tan