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Parliament of Malaysia: Beyond the Memes, Behind the Scenes

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28 Sep 2023

5 Min Read

Ishaanaah Ravi (Alumna Writer), Nellie Chan (Editor)


Unearth the real story of the Malaysian Parliament, beyond the memes! Go behind the scenes for a revealing look at its inner workings.

As Malaysians, we connect over more than just our fondness for food; yes, you've guessed it – we, too, bond over our humour for memes. These clever creations have permeated our social media feeds, especially during moments like the infamous hung parliament, engaging us in both comic relief and a source of information during confusing times.


Safe to say, memes have evolved into a unifying force, consistently tickling our funny bones. Yet, laughter aside, we often find ourselves baffled by the origins of these creations and their relevance to our ongoing national affairs. Therefore, a pressing question emerges: Shouldn't we delve deeper into comprehending the inner workings of the Malaysian parliament?

What Is Parliament: Where Memes Are Born

So, let's get to know the Malaysian Parliament better. Imagine it as the central hub where important decisions about our nation have been made since the Federation of Malaya's independence in 1959. Here's how it works: Parliament gathers every Monday to Thursday to go over a broad range of matters and make sure the government is on the right track. (Also, did I mention you can watch Parliament live in action?!)

Dewan Rakyat

Given Malaysia's diverse landscape, Parliament is divided into two houses: the House of Representatives, often referred to as Dewan Rakyat, where we have the right to elect 222 representatives to speak on our behalf, and Senate, also known as Dewan Negara, composed of 70 members selected to represent our states and territories. 


Picture Parliament as a football field where important 'goals' are 'scored'. In this 'game', the King, much like the star player who scores the winning goal in a match, has the authority to grant approvals to the Cabinet's decisions. The Cabinet are then the coaches, coming up with strategies and commanding the team's moves. They might not be in the spotlight, but they're crucial for the team's success. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House serves as the referee, ensuring that everyone in the 'game' follows the 'rules'.

What Does Parliament Do: More Than Just Talk

Now that we have a better grasp of what the Malaysian Parliament is, let's dive into what it actually does. One of its primary functions is passing bills, which are proposed laws. A notable example is the Undi18 Bill, which aimed to lower the voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18, allowing more young people to participate in elections. These bills are debated and discussed by members in both houses, Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, who bring different perspectives to the table. After three thorough sessions, they vote to decide whether a proposed law should be passed or not. Once a bill is approved, it becomes law and is implemented. But Parliament's role doesn't end there; it also monitors how well these laws are working and can make changes if needed. To help with this, there are special select committees, each focusing on specific areas like education or finance. 


And what's more? Parliament also plunges headfirst into the nation's budget. Envision them as financial detectives, carefully cracking the complex codes that will solve our nation's financial mysteries in the year to come. They act as a check and balance within the system, ensuring the government does its job properly and that laws benefit everyone in Malaysia. So, Parliament isn't just a place where people talk; it's where important decisions are made, laws are created, budgets are reviewed, and the government is kept an eye on to keep everything fair and balanced.

Elections: The ‘Premier League’ of Malaysian Politics

I believe some of you might be wondering: Why the need for so many elections? Well, what if I told you, that the pivotal people involved in electing the members of Parliament are none other than you! Think of it as a two-tiered adventure: General Elections and State Elections, each with its own unique quest. General Elections, or GE, are like the ultimate showdown where we pick the champions of Parliament – the representatives who will guide and govern the country at a macro level. Different parties can participate in GE, and the party with the most seats in Parliament then gets to form the Cabinet. Those Cabinet members are basically Parliament's VIPs! But even if a party has fewer seats, they are still invited to the table as the opposition, serving as checks and balances. On the other hand, State Elections are like regional contests among representatives who will be a part of state assemblies. They will, instead, deal with state-specific issues and lead the country at a micro level. 


And guess what? Every five years, an old Parliament dissolves, ushering in elections for a new Parliament within 60 to 90 days – it's like a reboot! Every member is elected based on the votes from their district, earning a seat in Parliament. But it's crucial to note that with every 'reboot' in our democracy, we are given the chance to reshape the nation we wish to see. Thus, as Malaysians, we have the responsibility to participate in our general and state elections. After all, elections are not meant for Instagrammable moments or voters' discounts and promotions (though they're great) — every vote counts towards our future!


As we trace the intricacies of Malaysia's parliamentary system, it becomes evident that every election, every debate, and every decision unravels a more meaningful narrative beyond memes. It lends clarity to the motivations and intentions of our members of Parliament, which in turn, lends a hand to our votes in the next elections. So, grab your pen and pad, and take notes, because when it comes to Parliament, we're not just spectators; we're the authors of Malaysia's democratic future!

Ishaanaah Ravi is a Bachelor of Education (Honours) alumna who enjoys reading and creative writing in her free time. She also finds fulfilment in conducting volunteer work, believing that life is not just about what we receive, but also about what we give.

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