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A blot for 92%-BN dominated 11th Parliament that not one of 199 BN MPs wanted to debate Standing Orders amendments when at least five DAP MPs were prepared to speak on parliamentary reform and modernization but were shut out by Deputy Speaker Lim Si Cheng
by Lim Kit Siang
The last item of parliamentary business on Thursday, the motion to adopt the proposals of the Standing Order Standing Committee on 12 amendments to the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders, was an important one – as it was the first effort to institutionalize parliamentary reform and modernization after two years of talk about a First World Parliament.
It should have been an important occasion for MPs from both sides of the House to conduct a wide-ranging debate of the yawning gulf between the objective and reality of wanting to have a First World Parliament in keeping with the Prime Minister’s call for the eradication of the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise; the urgent agenda of action that is needed to develop the momentum for parliamentary reform and modernization and an assessment on the specific proposals for 12 amendments as to whether they are appropriate and adequate as the first step in two years to achieve the goal of a First World Parliament.
Although the Barisan Nasional dominated Parliament with 199 out of the 219 parliamentary seats, there was not a single BN MP who wanted to speak while there were at least five DAP MPs who wanted to take part in the debate although we have a puny total of 12 MPs!
This made the unprofessional and unparliamentary conduct of Deputy Speaker, Datuk Lim Si Cheng, in his shot-gun disposal of the motion by rushing it to a vote without opening it for debate, a great disservice in the long hard road to attain the objective of a First World Parliament.
There were of course ample reasons why BN MPs were very nervous and apprehensive about a debate on the motion on amendments to the Standing Orders and would have preferred either to defer the motion to the next Parliamentary meeting or dispose of it without debate.
One UMNO MP sounded me out earlier in the day whether I would agree to the deferment of the motion to the next parliamentary meeting. I objected as the Standing Orders Standing Committee had already taken too long a time to bring its first report to the House for debate.
I can understand why the BN MPs were nervous and apprehensive about the debate on the motion on Standing Orders amendments, which would not have been the case if the debate had been held one week earlier.
This was because many things had happened in the past week since the “close one eye” scandal of the MP for Jasin, Datuk Mohamed Said Yusof exploded in Parliament on May 4, 2006 when I unsuccessfully moved a motion to refer him to the Committee of Privileges to ascertain whether he had committed any breach of parliamentary privilege when he interceded with the Malacca Customs and Excise Department in connection with the import of illegal sawn timber from Indonesia, in particular:
The BN MPs may have many reasons they do not want to take part in the first debate in the current Parliament on specific proposals to amend the Standing Orders, but it raises the question as to what is the purpose of electing 92% MPs in Parliament from Barisan Nasional when there is not a single one out of 1999 BN MPs who have any notion about the important subject of the institutionalization of parliamentary reform and modernization.
Deputy Speaker Lim Si Cheng, who was in the chair, should have gone out of his way to avert embarrassment and shame to the Malaysian Parliament by ensuring that there is seriousness in the debate on the first batch of amendments to parliamentary Standing Orders in particular and on parliamentary reform and modernization in general – but he not only failed to do so, he compounded his blunder and went out of his way to deny DAP MPs their right to speak up in the debate with his shot-gun rush for a vote of the motion without putting it up for debate.
Si Cheng succeeded in temporarily staving off embarrassment to the Barisan Nasional but at the expense of permanent shame and disgrace to Parliament – as this is now a permanent part of the history of the Malaysian Parliament.
It is indeed a blot of the 11th Parliament when not one of 199 BN MPs in the 92%-BN dominated Parliament wanted to debate the Standing Orders amendments when at least five DAP MPs were prepared to speak on parliamentary reform and modernization but were shut out by Deputy Speaker Lim Si Cheng.
This should be an object lesson to the Malaysian electorate – that it would be more useful for parliamentary democracy, the people’s rights and the national interests to have a stronger Opposition in Parliament than to give the Barisan Nasional 92% command of Parliament.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission