3. Explain the process how a Bill becomes Law. Malaysia was a former British colony and prior to its independence a commission was appointed to draft the Federal Constitution based on the system of parliamentary democracy practiced in the Great Britain. Similar to the Westminster System, Malaysia’s Federal Constitution divides the structure of government into three branches – Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary. Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the Legislature is the body which has the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws.
There are two legislative assemblies under the Westminster system, an upper house (In Malaysia, it is called the Dewan Negara) and a lower house (Dewan Rakyat). Before an Act becomes a law, it is called a Bill. There are two types of Bills, a Public Bill and a Private Bill. Under the Public Bills, there are Government Bills and Private Members Bills, where Government Bill is normally introduced by a Minister and Private Member Bill is initiated by a Member of Parliament. A Private Bill is a proposal for a law that would apply to a particular individual or a group of individuals, or corporate entity.
A Bill will have to go through several stages before it becomes a law. When a Bill is introduced to MPs in the parliament, it is called the First Reading. The title of the Bill is read out and copies of it are copied out, no debate takes place, but there will be a vote on whether the House wishes to consider the Bill further. During the Second Reading, the general principles contained in the Bill are debated by the MPs. Frequently, during this stage; public attention will be drawn to the proposal and the debate between the MPs who support and against the bill begins.
At the end of the debate a vote is taken – a majority of MPs must be in favor of the Bill in order for it to progress any further. If the Bill passes the Second Reading, it will come to the Committee Stage. At this stage, a detailed examination of each clause of the Bill is undertaken by a committee and the committee will subject the Bill to line-by-line examination and make amendments. The membership of the committee will usually be those MPs with special knowledge, or interest, in the subject of the Bill. Next, the amended Bill goes to the Report Stage – the Bill will be reviewed by the House where it started.
The amendments will be debated in the House. The Third Reading is the final vote and debate on the Bill. It is almost a formality, since a Bill which passed through all the stages is very unlikely to fail at this late stage. Another vote will be taken and if passed, then it goes through a similar process in another House. Finally, a Royal Assent by the King is needed in order for the Bill to formally become a law. Under the Constitutional Amendment Act of 1983, the King cannot refuse to sign the bill if it has been passed by both of the Houses in the parliament. Thereafter, the Act is gazetted and becomes an Act of Parliament.
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