Public puts Legislative Council in the limelight

National 2 minutes, 56 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE State Legislative Council (LegCo) sessions need to be televised live for all to witness, some members of the public voiced yesterday amid calls for issues such as corruption and credit card debt to be addressed in the proceedings.

They said a platform needs to be established for the public to interactively participate in the debates at the LegCo, which opens this year's session today.

The council enters its sixth session since it was reopened in 2004 by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam after a 20-year hiatus, and will take place at its newer permanent venue, the Dewan Majlis in Berakas.

The sovereign-appointed council members, comprising cabinet ministers, nobility, district representatives and prominent private sector individuals, will convene in the main hall of the blue-domed building to lobby policies and deliberate on issues of national concern.

Some Bruneians have expressed interest in being able to keep themselves abreast with the goings-on at the council's session.

Local professional photographer David Cheok suggested that issues discussed during LegCo sessions should be shared and made public. An avid blogger, Cheok suggested using the Internet as a platform for such a forum.

"I suggest LegCo be aired on TV and a corresponding website be created with issues discussed, opened for public discussion. These open forums can become info-gathering areas whereby issues become areas of debate prioritised by popularity," he said.

"A moderated 'BruneiTalk' (could be developed, and) categorised into political, legal, social and economic segments and sub-categorised into (more) specific areas," he added.

Farid Mat Zin, who works at a private sector financial institution, supported Cheok's views, agreeing that an online forum would facilitate the public's interest in the proceedings.

"We are heading towards an e-government, so why not?" Farid asked. "But we have to make sure that the right people are actually listening to these concerns, and better yet, are able to answer them."

Cheok also said this was a good time to discuss the impact of the Ministry of Finance's recently-introduced regulation to have credit cards issued according to criteria based on a person's salary. Under the new regulation, people already holding multiple credit cards but do not want to maintain them will be given a grace period to clear their debt.

On this, Cheok said that the short-term effect of the new rules may be hard on many people and cause problems, especially in lower-income groups. He suggested that the deadline may be extended to help such people.

"I've been told there are many people with loans who are in dire straits because of the deadline. Eighteen months would be a good starting point," he said.

A civil servant working for the Ministry of Education, who asked not to be named, hoped that this sitting of the council would address issues pertaining to the country's anti-corruption initiatives. She recalled the recent trial of the former Minister of Development.

"The rules (against corruption) have to be made more strict and the punishment more severe if we are really serious about wiping out corruption. They should take a closer look at this during LegCo," she said.

She also hoped that issues arising from development in the Mulaut area, flood-prevention work in particular, would be addressed. "I'd like to know if the construction work will be ready to face major flooding, since my area is always badly affected."

The Brunei Times