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.
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.
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".
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. 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.
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. Should the President be absent, his Deputy takes his place.
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.
|Mode of Appointment||Seats|
|By Yang di-Pertuan Agong||44|
|By State Assemblies||26|