Dewan Negara - Membership

Membership

Members of the Dewan Negara are referred to as "Senators" and "Ahli Dewan Negara" (literally "member of the Dewan Negara") in Malay. The term of office is 3 years and senators may only be re-appointed once, consecutively or non-consecutively.

Each of the 13 state legislative assemblies chooses two senators. 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. Federally appointed senators 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)".

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 Dewan Negara 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 2010, the Senators remain indirectly elected.

The Dewan Negara is not affected by the elections for the Dewan Rakyat, and senators continue to hold office despite the Dewan Rakyat's dissolution for an election.

The Dewan Negara elects a President to preside over sittings of the Dewan Negara, 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.

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