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Sunday October 26, 2008

Mystery solved - it was Billy Abit

A PETITION in support of a motion calling for the review of the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) was much talked about along the corridors of the Dewan Rakyat.

This is because apart from containing the signatures of the 81 Opposition MPs, three independent MPs, a lone backbencher signed it as well.

Many were curious to find out who the mysterious Barisan Nasional MP was and talk about his or her identity echoed outside the chambers.

Later, it was revealed that the MP in question was Billy Abit Joo, the Hulu Rajang MP.

DAP’s Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang, who is the Abolish ISA parliamentary caucus chairman, was initially tight-lipped about the identity of the MP, saying that by keeping the MP’s identity under wraps, more Barisan MPs would come forward.

“The petition is aimed at seeking support from MPs to back a motion to debate the ISA. It is not aimed at asking an MP to commit himself in pressuring the Government to repeal the Act,” he said.

Even so, Barisan MPs were unwilling to be committed, he said.

While many on the Barisan side would regard the MP in question as a traitor, those sitting on the left side of the Dewan saw him or her as a plucky MP, bold enough to make a stand on the issue.

Fong Po Kuan (DAP - Batu Gajah) and Johari Abdul (PKR - Sungai Petani), who were tasked to approach MPs to support the petition, said many senior backbenchers or Cabinet ministers declined to be part of the petition.

Many of them agreed with the stand of the caucus but declined to put their names on paper, on the excuse that they had not received any instructions from the top Barisan leadership regarding the matter.

The petition, containing the first batch of signatures, was submitted to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ab­­dullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday, calling on Parliament to set a date to discuss the motion tabled by Teresa Kok (DAP €“ Seputeh) to debate on the ISA.

“In a First World Parliament, it is the MPs who set the agenda and not the Executive,” said Lim, adding it was historic to get a large number of MPs supporting the petition.

Tawau MP Datuk Chua Soon Bui from the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has no problems admitting that she supported the petition.

She is now an independent MP after her party pulled out of the Barisan coalition last month.

Since then, she has not looked back - she has since discovered a new found space to voice her opinions.

“I feel I have more freedom to speak now, without having to toe the partnership (Barisan) line,” said Chua.

Apart from the ISA, Salahuddin Ayub’s (PAS €“ Kubang Kerian) at­­tempt to discuss the appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi as the Chief Justice was shot down after his emergency motion was thrown out on grounds that the support of 55 MPs was needed before a substantive motion could be tabled to debate on the character of a judge in the House.

Just a day earlier, M. Kulasegaran (DAP - Ipoh Barat) faced the same fate as his attempt to discuss the ban on Hindraf was also rejected as it was held to be of no urgency.

Both Salahuddin and Kulasegaran were upset over the fate of the two motions.

Salahuddin raised the matter, saying that several emergency motions filed by him so far - concerning the price of goods, oil royalties and several other topics - had been rejected.

Datuk Ibrahim Ali (Independent - Pasir Mas) then went after the Chair, saying that after making several failed attempts to get his emergency motions approved for debate, he had “given up”.

“I am too lazy to do so anymore because we know the outcome - it is going to be rejected. It’s like losing your girlfriend suddenly. I have lost motivation to table (such motions).”

Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, however, said he felt that many did not understand the purpose of emergency motions €“ that the matter to be discussed must be specific, of public interest and ur­­gent.

“I do my research and reading before ruling on these applications. How is it going to be if any and every emergency motion is allowed for de­­bate?“ he asked.

Another interesting episode last week was the choice of words, which led to an uproar in the House.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin used the word “buttocks” on Opposition MP N. Gobala­krishnan.

Lajim was replying on the upgrading of Batu Berendam airport, saying that the Government had spent quite a sum on it and went on to say that even if Pakatan Rakyat were to take over the government, they would not have the funds to do so.

At this juncture, someone from the Opposition Bloc shouted: “A lot of money, half of it must be bribes!”

This agitated Lajim who retorted: “What? As if when (Datuk Seri ) An­­war (Ibrahim) was Finance Minis­ter, there were no bribes?”

Gobalakrishnan (PKR - Padang Se­­rai) jumped up and Lajim told him that he was just a new MP and was tagging behind the “buttocks of others”.

This caused furore in the House as many saw it as a jibe against Anwar, who has been charged with sodomy.

Deputy speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had a tough time trying to calm down the MPs.

The Dewan sits again on Wed­nesday

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