A Parliament or a circus?

The Dewan Rakyat was filled with drama during its first day on July 13. – The Sun photo


By Seah Eu Hen 

WHAT a day it was for Malaysia. The Dewan Rakyat was in full swing, with all MPs in attendance save for Maximus Ongkili (Kota Marudu), who was absent due to exhaustion.

Right off the bat, we witnessed the unbecoming behaviour of a former Federal Territories minister, who, during question time, interjected frequently, even when he was not accorded the privilege to do so. Not to mention the irony of a former education minister getting into a row with the special functions minister on why the MySejahtera app was outsourced to a US-based company, when just two years ago, the former minister himself proudly claimed Chinese ancestry.

When the motion to remove Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof as speaker was tabled, there was uproar from both sides of the aisle. By then, Ariff had already recused himself, and his deputy, Rashid Hasnon, took the podium.

At one point, it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of the action, with the government – Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, Shahidan Kassim (Arau), Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (Pasir Salak), Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (Padang Rengas) and Noh Omar (Tg Karang) – jumping in to rebut former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s point on the unprecedented move to oust a speaker based on whims and fancies. Not forgetting, too, how Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was chastised as “cucu”, or grandson, by these same lawmakers, as though his youth disqualifies him from the discussion.

The deputy speaker then called a vote on the motion to remove Ariff, and it scraped through 111 to 109, allowing Perikatan Nasional to protect its precarious position.

The best was yet to come, though – the appointment of Azhar Azizan Harun as speaker without a vote held. He facilitated the sitting after swiftly taking his oath, and this was met with great opposition from Pakatan Harapan, especially Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto.

Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham then requested for the opposition to be allowed to nominate its candidate for the post, as a 14-day notice should have taken effect. But Azhar rejected it, ruling that a matter that has been decided in Parliament cannot be revisited, as per the Standing Orders. He also wasted no time exercising his authority, booting out Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad for causing a disruption.

Teluk Intan MP Nga Kor Ming, meanwhile, resigned as deputy speaker, citing solidarity with Ariff. Amid the chaos, Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said was appointed as Nga’s replacement, also without a vote.

The appointment of the select committee for the 14th Parliament – a powerful panel in the House – without a debate took the cake yesterday.

How this happened is a mystery to me, because the discussion was derailed by racist and sexist remarks made by the Baling and Pasir Salak MPs on the Batu Kawan lawmaker as she was raising the importance of female representation in the select committee.

It’s hard to imagine that the duo made the comments in jest during a significant motion to tilt the balance of power in PN’s favour. One could even argue that it was bait, and the opposition took it with reckless abandon.

The new speaker then adjourned the sitting, on the request of de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan.

Perhaps, the silver lining is that we got a glimpse of what a proper Dewan Rakyat sitting could look like, when the Kota Baru and Puchong MPs, both with a law background, made a fantastic exchange on points of law during the motion to have the speaker’s post vacated.

But one must wonder, can we really expect to see a debate that is civil, sophisticated and eloquent, or will the august House descend into a circus? As it stands, the PN government isn’t bowing to pressure from the opposition, and has shown that it is willing to bend the rules – and will gladly do so – to maintain its grip on power.

Only time will tell, as the Parliament session continues.

This letter first appeared in The Malaysian Insight. The views here do not necessarily represent those of this portal. 

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