It is intriguing that Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin contended that his recent motion to extend the validity of a legal provision under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) was voted down on 23 March because not many lawmakers liked his face.
The provision in question was Section 4(5) of Sosma that allows for detention without a court order for up to 28 days.
If we were to follow Hamzah’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, this would mean that only ministers who have “likeable faces” are likely to have their respective bills passed, irrespective of what the intended laws are for or their legal and political implications.
Or to put it another way, not many bills can be passed in Parliament if many ministers are considered by fellow lawmakers as “unsightly”, no matter how much they try to lose weight or do some plastic surgery, for instance.
Hamzah’s contention was in response to an unprecedented failure of the government to get its Sosma motion approved when 86 MPs voted against it while 85 others voted in favour.
The razor-thin majority of nays were largely brought about by the absenteeism of 49 MPs, which included two senior ministers, five ministers and six deputy ministers, as well as top Umno leaders such as its president Zahid Hamidi, its secretary general Ahmad Maslan and former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The absence of government MPs in particular prompted lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to call for the sacking of the cabinet members concerned. But, having said that, he did not think that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob would do that as it would jeopardise his position.
Be that as it may, we would think that Hamzah made such an expression in jest, as he should know that parliamentary bills are supposed to be scrutinised and voted for or against by MPs after weighing the pros and cons – and not arising from such spurious excuse as an “unappealing face”.
Similarly, absenteeism should not be used as an indirect means to vote a motion down to the extent that the government was said to have lost its “moral authority” and therefore it should call for a general election, as certain absent Umno MPs were alleged to have aimed to do just that.
As a result, Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa (from Umno), for instance, argued that Pakatan Harapan had violated article 3.3(b) of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which he claimed required the opposition to support any motion proposed by the government. That is carte blanche, which should not be the case.
However, the federal cabinet, of which Annuar is a member, declared eventually that the MoU still stands as the opposition did not violate the agreement.
The motion to extend the shelf-life of Sosma should not be scuttled merely for such a questionable political design, if the allegation is true.
To be sure, the Sosma motion should be considered by MPs as important to be addressed because of the contentious nature of the law.
Critics and advocates of human rights as well as the MPs who voted against the Sosma motion fear that unfettered powers to detain suspects for any length of time could lead to abuse. Thus, judicial oversight is vital in such detention of suspects for any criminal or suspected acts of terrorism.
To retable the Sosma amendment bill, as planned by the home minister, will only revive the fears and reservations of concerned Malaysians.
It is hoped that MPs, who are supposed to represent the interests and concerns of their electorates, would not play hooky for reasons that would only mock the augustness of the Dewan Rakyat. – The Malaysian Insight