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Dewan Negara
Type Upper house
President of the Dewan Negara Wong Foon Meng, Barisan Nasional - MCA
since July 7, 2009
Members 70 Senators
Political groups Barisan Nasional (62)
Pakatan Rakyat (4)
Minorities (2)
Meeting place
Dewan negara.jpg
Malaysian Houses of Parliament, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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The Dewan Negara (literally "National Hall") or Senate is the upper house of the Parliament of Malaysia. The Senate consists of 70 members, of which 26 are indirectly elected by the states, with two senators for every state in the Federation, and the other 44 being appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King). The Senate reviews legislation that has been passed by the lower house of Parliament, the Dewan Rakyat; both meet at the Houses of Parliament in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Both houses must pass a bill before it can be sent to the King for royal assent; however, if the Dewan Negara rejects a bill, it can only delay the bill's passage by a year (at the most) before it is sent to the King.

Originally, the Senate was meant to act as a check on the Dewan Rakyat, and also to represent the interests of the various states. However, the original Constitution which provided for a majority of state-elected Senators has since been modified to make those appointed by the King in the majority.



Appointed persons must have "rendered distinguished public service or have achieved distinction in the professions, commerce, industry, agriculture, cultural activities or social service or are representative of racial minorities or are capable of representing the interests of aborigines (Orang Asli)".[1]

Each of the 13 state legislative assemblies chooses 2 Senators. The term of office is 3 years and Senators can only be re-elected once, consecutively or non-consecutively. The King appoints two Senators for the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, and one respectively for the Federal Territories of Labuan and Putrajaya on the advice of the Prime Minister. Another 40 Senators, regardless of their states, are appointed by the King, also on the Prime Minister's advice.[2]

The intent of the original Constitution of Malaysia, which provided for only 16 Senators to be appointed by the King (thus placing them in the minority) was to give the states some say over federal policy. However, subsequent amendments have, according to former Lord President of the Federal Court Tun Mohamed Suffian Mohamed Hashim, acted "contrary to the spirit of the original constitution which established the Senate specially as a body to protect in the federal Parliament, state interests against federal encroachments".[3]

To qualify, a candidate must be a Malaysian citizen residing in the Federation, must not owe allegiance to any foreign state, must not have received a prison sentence of one year or longer, and must not have been fined RM2,000 or more. Holders of a full time profit-making position in the public service are also ineligible. There is no requirement to belong to a political party. Parliament is permitted to increase the number of Senators to three per state, reduce the number of appointed Senators, or abolish the post of appointed Senator altogether. The process of appointment is set out by Article 45 of the Constitution.[2] The Constitution provides for direct election of the 26 Senators from the states, but this clause does not take effect until Parliament passes a resolution bringing it into effect; as of 2006, the Senators remain indirectly elected.[4]

Members of the Senate are not affected by elections for the lower house of the Dewan Rakyat, and continue to hold office despite the Dewan Rakyat's dissolution for an election.[1]

The Senate elects a President to preside over sittings of the Senate, ensure observance of the rules of the house, and interpret the Standing Orders of the house should they be disputed.[5] Should the President be absent, his Deputy takes his place.[6]

Powers and procedure

The Senate may initiate legislation, except for financial and fiscal matters — a regulation directly from the Westminster system. It may also amend legislation, provided it does not deal with financial matters. Any proposed legislation must first be passed by the Dewan Rakyat. Then it is presented to the Dewan Negara in three readings. At the first, the legislation's proposer presents it to the assembly. At the second, the bill is debated. At the third, a vote is taken whether to pass or reject the bill. The Dewan Negara may not formally reject bills; it is only allowed to delay their passage by one month, or up to a year under certain circumstances. After the bill has passed or the requisite period is up, the bill is presented to the King for royal assent. If the King demurs or 30 days pass without royal assent, the bill is sent back to Parliament with a list of suggested amendments. The bill must then be reapproved by both houses of Parliament. If the King still does not grant royal assent 30 days after it is presented to him again, the bill automatically becomes law. It does not take effect, however, until it is published in the Government Gazette.[7]

Although members of Parliament typically have legal immunity when it comes to freedom of discussion, under the Sedition Act, a gag rule forbids discussion about repealing certain articles of the Constitution dealing with controversial Bumiputra privileges such as Article 153.[8]

Current composition

Mode of Appointment Seats
By Yang di-Pertuan Agong 44
By State Assemblies 26
Total 70

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Henderson, John William, Vreeland, Nena, Dana, Glenn B., Hurwitz, Geoffrey B., Just, Peter, Moeller, Philip W. & Shinn, R.S. (1977). Area Handbook for Malaysia, p. 217. American University, Washington D.C., Foreign Area Studies. LCCN 771294.
  2. ^ a b Shuid, Mahdi & Yunus, Mohd. Fauzi (2001). Malaysian Studies, p. 33. Longman. ISBN 983-74-2024-3.
  3. ^ Wu, Min Aun & Hickling, R. H. (2003). Hickling's Malaysian Public Law, pp. 26–27. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Malaysia. ISBN 983-74-2518-0.
  4. ^ Rachagan, S. Sothi (1993). Law and the Electoral Process in Malaysia, p. 8. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press. ISBN 967-9940-45-4.
  5. ^ "President". Retrieved Feb. 15, 2006.
  6. ^ "Deputy President". Retrieved Feb. 15, 2006.
  7. ^ Shuid & Yunus, p. 34.
  8. ^ Means, Gordon P. (1991). Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation, pp. 14, 15. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-588988-6.


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