A double blot of shame for Malaysian Parliament – all thanks to BN MPs
What happened in the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday, 14th November 2013 was a double blot of shame for the Malaysian Parliament – all thanks to Barisan Nasional MPs.
The first blot occurred in the morning session when in utter disregard of the Parliamentary Standing Orders and conventions, the Barisan Nasional used its majority in Parliament to bulldoze through an irregular, improper and “haram” motion to suspend the PKR/PR MP for Padang Serai, N. Surendran for six months for his championing of the 101-year old Sri Muneswarar Kaliyamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur.
The motion to suspend Surendran violated the Parliamentary Standing Orders and conventions on at least four grounds.
Standing Order 27 (3) reads: “Except as provided in Standing Order 43 and in paragraph (5) of the Standing Order 86 and 26(1), not less than fourteen days’ notice of any motion shall be given unless it is in the name of a Minister, in which case seven days’ notice or, if Tuan Yang di Pertua is satisfied upon representation to him by a Minister that the public interest requires that a motion should be debated as soon as possible, one day’s notice shall be sufficient”.
As the exceptions in the Standing Orders 43, 86 and 26 do not apply, the motion to suspend Surendran, which is in the name of a Minister, would require “seven days’ notice or, if Tuan Yang di Pertua is satisfied upon representation to him by a Minister that the public interest requires that a motion should be debated as soon as possible, one day’s notice shall be sufficient”.
The four grounds which the motion to suspend Surendran by six months ran afoul of the Standing Orders and parliamentary conventions were:
- There was no compliance with the “one day’s notice” required of the Minister’s motion, as even if “one day” is interpreted as “24 hours”, the earliest the motion could be debated would be after 6 pm on Thursday as notice was only given to MPs on Wednesday after 6 pm.
- There was no “public interest” requiring the motion to be debated after one day’s notice instead of after seven days’ notice. In fact, up to now no Minister can explain what was this “public interest” that warranted the debate and decision to be held immediately instead of complying with “seven days’ notice” – in fact, even without the requisite one day’s notice.
- Clear conflict of interest as the Tuan Yang di Pertua who allowed the Minister’s motion to be debated without seven days’ notice was a party to the issue in dispute, as the motion was over Surendran’s alleged “insult” to the Speaker.
- In any event, the proper procedure to be followed in this case was to refer Surendran to the Committee of Privileges as it affected the “powers and privileges of the House”, and the Committee of Privileges should investigate and report to the House on the allegations made against Surendran.
The refrain by the Chair that any MP not satisfied with the Speaker’s ruling can invoke Standing Order 43 to move a substantive motion for a review of the decision, which would require not more than two days’ notice, was entirely hollow and meaningless as in the history of Malaysian Parliament, no such motion had ever been allowed time for debate in the House. It is as good as a “dead letter”.
This was why no Pakatan Rakyat MP spared a thought for S.O 43 when earlier in the morning, the Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia wrongly ordered Surendran to leave the Chamber on the ground that he was still suspended.
This was a violation of S.O. 44(2) which clearly stated that when the Speaker had not determined the period of a MP’s suspension, “such period shall be deemed to be two days inclusive of the day of the incident”.
Surendran was suspended on the morning of Tuesday 12th November 2013 and as the Speaker had not specified the period of his suspension , his two-day suspension should be Tuesday – “the day of the incident” – and Wednesday should expire on Thursday itself! The Speaker’s ejection of Surendran on Thursday morning was therefore wrong and against the Standing Orders.
A newspaper had alleged two days in succession (New Straits Times) that DAP/PR MP for Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo and I virtually chased Pandikar Amin from the House because we “joined in the fray and shouted for clarification” for Surendran’s ejection that morning.
Such a report is totally baseless and a figment of the journalist’s fevered imagination, highlighting the low and sorry professional standards suffered by the country at various levels of our professions – including the mass media – more than half-a-century of our nation’s Independence.
Together with other PR leaders – like Azmin Ali (PKR/PR Gombak) and Mahfuz Omar (PAS/PR Pokok Sena), I had suggested to the Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee for an adjournment of the House for both sides to work out a “win-win” solution to resolve the deadlock and pandemonium in the House, whether it be a seven-day notice for the motion, reference of Surendran to the Committee of Privileges or an undertaking that a substantive motion under S.O. 43 to review the decisions of the Chair would be allotted time for debate and not just expire in cold storage.
But contrary to parliamentary conventions, the Deputy Speaker refused to adjourn the House to provide for a “cooling off” period for a parliamentary consensus to be worked out by both sides of the House for a solution to the impasse.
Instead the House and the country was treated to the farcical spectacle of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nancy Shukry reading out the speech for the motion although nobody could hear a word of what she said as her speech was completely drowned out in the pandemonium and chaos in the House.
This was followed by the equally farcical voting on the motion, as no MP, whether from BN or PR, could hear what the proposing Minister had said.
This was also why PR MPs refused to take part in the voting as they regarded the motion as not only irregular and improper, but also an “usul haram”.
It is in these circumstances of denial of justice and proper regard for parliamentary procedures and conventions that some PR MPs vented their anger, frustration and exasperation reacting emotionally by tearing up or crumbling the green motion paper.
The PR parliamentary leadership had not given approval for the tearing up or crumbling of the motion paper, as it occurred instantaneously and spontaneously out of frustration and exasperation PR MPs at the denial of justice and disrespect for parliamentary standing orders and conventions in the motion to suspend Surendran for six months, reducing the Malaysian Parliament to a kangaroo court and a laughing stock of the world.
The second blot of shame for the Malaysian Parliament on Thursday afternoon was a very different kettle of fish – as it was a cold-blooded sabotage of parliamentary proceedings in a vengeful retaliation for what transpired in the morning, which had nothing to do with justice, integrity of parliamentary procedures or the rights of the people.
BN MPs, led the MP for Kinabatangan Bung Mokhtar Radin, carried out a preplanned conspiracy to drum up a commotion, culminating in the tearing up of PR/PKR Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh’s motion to cut the salaries of five special advisers in the Prime Minister’s Department, namely Rais Yatim, Noh Omar, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Johari Baharom and Hasbi Habibollah, calling it a “haram motion” because of an error in a fact in her speech.
If the BN MPs had regarded Fuziah’s motion as “haram”, then they should have emulated the PR MPs in the morning and declined to take part in its voting – and to allow the PR MPs to carry the motion by voting in support of it.
But this was not the purpose as the whole intention was to sabotage parliamentary proceedings by not allowing for any debate on Fuziah’s motion.
In fact, this was why the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri
Shahidan Kassim had after lunch moved a motion for an earlier adjournment the House immediately after the disposal of Fuziah’s motion instead of the daily 5.30 pm – which is clear testimony that the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department was privy and had given his sanction to the parliamentary sabotage on the debate of Fuziah’s motion.
This is no “tit for tat” by BN MPs to the morning’s blot of shame but a double blot of shame perpetrated by BN MPs in Malaysian Parliament, exhibiting the sheer infantilism of BN MPs who could think of such crude ways to retaliate against PR MPs, utterly without regard to the rights and wrongs of an issue or the interests of the people and country.
This is clearly not the way towards a first-world Parliament!