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Parliamentary speaker must act firmly against troublemaker MPs

How should MPs behave in Parliament?

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Aliran notes with grave concern the utter lack of respect and decorum displayed by some members of Parliament in the august house.  To refer to these MPs as lawmakers would be a complete misnomer: they could be better described as quarrelsome troublemakers.

Barisan Nasional MP for Pasir Salak Tajuddin Abdul Rahman triggered the recent brouhaha in Parliament by flippantly asking Pakatan Harapan MP for Jelutong RSN Rayer if the holy ash on his forehead were the ashes of communist leader Chin Peng. Tajuddin clearly intended to irritate, taunt and ridicule Rayer. Upon protests from Rayer and several other MPs, Tajuddin withdrew his remarks.

The debate did not end there. Other PH MPs like Bukit Gelugor’s Ramkarpal Singh and Batu Gajah’s Sivakumar Naidu urged the speaker to take action against Tajuddin. Meanwhile, Barisan MPs including Arau’s Shahidan Kassim sprang to Tajuddin’s defence. 

After close to 10 minutes of utter confusion and chaos in the house, the speaker of Parliament suspended Tajuddin for two days. Tajuddin took his suspension lightly and sarcastically thanked the speaker, saying he could take the time off to attend the Umno assembly.

The speaker also suspended the PH MP for Kota Melaka for two days for refusing to comply with the request not to raise the issue anymore.

This is not the first time Parliament has descended to such depths with MPs from both sides of the divide standing up and almost shouting over each other. In such situations, no one can hear what the other party is saying. Instead, what we hear are loud noises and occasionally uncouth words and taunts such as “bodoh”, “podah” (get lost) and “samseng” (gangster). Such boorish behaviour degrades Parliament. Debates are reduced to nothing more than a competition of who can shout louder with little or no substance.

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This is not the way for parliamentarians to conduct themselves. Imagine if schoolchildren and foreigners visiting the house were to witness such exchanges. What kind of impression would they have?

Elected representatives are supposed to be role models for the rakyat. But the way things stand in Parliament, nothing could be further from the truth.

One likely reason for the brazen and disrespectful behaviour displayed by certain MPs is that they have been getting off too lightly for their misdeeds. The control – or lack of it – displayed by the parliamentary speaker and his deputies may be a contributory factor.

Aliran urges the speaker of Parliament and his deputies to put their foot down and get the house in order. Don’t tolerate such nonsense and disrespectful antics. The speakers and his deputies should have a clear grasp of their powers and exercise them to instil discipline and order in the house.

For instance, if MPs misbehave, can their salaries be suspended? What are the available penalties that can be meted out to misbehaving MPs? The speaker and his deputies should also not be afraid to name and shame the troublemakers.

The 222 parliamentarians were elected to represent the country’s 32 million people. Their job is to debate and propose laws for the wellbeing of the people. If we want clowns to entertain us, we might as well go to the circus.     

Aliran executive committee
5 December 2019

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