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A Parliament of sound and fury

What took the cake was when the PM absented himself for the winding-up debate on the national recovery plan

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The special sitting of our Parliament that’s ongoing is indeed ‘special’ in so far as the excitement the antics of government politicians have generated.

Some may attribute the ruckus in the otherwise august chamber recently to the pent-up feelings among the lawmakers that had been built up since the suspension of Parliament eight months ago – and subsequently released profusely at the meeting.

But what seems to have made many members of Parliament most livid was the unexpected announcement of de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan that the emergency ordinances had been revoked since 21 July.

To say that the lawmakers present in the Dewan Rakyat were caught by surprise would be the understatement of the year. They are aghast because there was no official notice circulated to inform them about such an important matter.

The proclamation of the emergency and the emergency ordinances were supposed to be laid before the lawmakers for debate and to be put to a vote. The voting didn’t happen.

This hasty announcement later triggered the question whether the revocation had received the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

For one moment in Malaysia, a simple answer of yes or no to this hot-button question became the hardest word pondered on, ever since celebrated singer Elton John used a similar-sounding phrase in his popular song.

Takiyuddin quipped that the answer would be duly given during Monday’s sitting (on 2 August), as if this vital matter could wait while the earth revolves relentlessly. He refused to budge when pressed for the answer, thanks to the unwavering support of speaker Azhar Azizan Harun.

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The Kota Bharu MP should be aware that while cliff-hangers are the stuff that movies are made of, they certainly have no place when decisions need to be made as soon as possible for the benefit of parliamentary democracy and the rakyat.

Neither do lap dogs have an apt place in the parliamentary processes – until Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh raised the spectre of the pampered pet animal in the august chamber.

He asked Azhar whether he was “a government lapdog” over the decision not to table the emergency proclamation and emergency ordinances in the Dewan Rakyat. That, unsurprisingly, rocked the house.

To be sure, verbal diarrhoea was aplenty in the house. Curiosity haunted Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim to the extent he promptly asked, if the prime minister’s bowel movements could be made public, why couldn’t the emergency revocation be announced?

What took the cake was when Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin decided to absent himself from the Dewan Rakyat for the winding-up debate on the national recovery plan. He apparently left Parliament, leaving Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz to carry the can.

Mahiaddin’s conspicuous absence prompted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to remind the speaker and lawmakers: “Never before in history – since independence and since the establishment of Parliament – has there been a time when questions to the prime minister and an emergency are answered by the finance minister.”

It is the hope of the rakyat that the lawmakers play their expected and effective role in Parliament, especially at a time when robust debates are essential in our collective fight against the pandemic and the sliding economy.

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The august chamber should not be, to paraphrase Shakespeare, a place full of sound and fury signifying nothing. – The Malaysian Insight

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