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CNRP sets sights on changes in assembly

The Cambodia National Rescue Party proposed a bold set of regulations for the National Assembly in an interparty meeting yesterday, calling for, among other things, a larger share of the body’s budget, and minority party control over the assembly’s purse strings, an opposition working group member said.

Speaking to reporters after yesterday’s working group meeting – which will be the last before opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng confer on the rules for the final time on Thursday – opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay said that the National Assembly should also have an official spokesman from both major parties.

“Nowadays we have a spokesman who is a representative from the ruling party, but he doesn’t speak for the whole National Assembly,” Chhay said. “[We want] to have [a spokesman] from each, because . . . in the parliament, when we speak about stance of the parliament, each party has its own stance, so it must have its own voice.”

Chhay said he had also raised a proposal to give minority parties a proportional share of the parliament’s staffing budget so they could hire adequate qualified staff to research legislation. In a later interview, Chhay said that the current staffing situation – in which assembly staffers are technically available to both parties – was ineffective, and added that the measure would not require a larger assembly budget.

Contending that many current staffers got their jobs through nepotism, most of them, Chhay said, “just sit around smoking cigarettes and chatting”.

“If you ask them to help you, many of them are afraid, because they think if you get too close to the opposition, you’ll be removed.”

Chhay said he also suggested a formula for allotting commission leadership posts after elections, including a provision giving the minority control over the body’s banking and finance commission as a check on the ruling party’s government spending.

Ruling party working group members were not receptive to the proposals, or said they should be left for the meeting between party higher-ups on Thursday, Chhay said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan declined to comment on the meeting yesterday, saying that he was not aware of the details of the debate, adding that the matters were a decision for the party’s top leaders. Chheang Vun, a spokesman of the National Assembly, and working group members of the CPP could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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