PENANG’S Opposition Leader Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor spoke for more than three hours while debating the Supply Bill at the recent state legislative assembly sitting.
The Sungai Dua assemblyman from Umno was not short of ideas and came up with recommendations, criticisms and proposals for a few issues.
Together with PAS’ Penaga assemblyman Yusni Mat Piah and Umno’s Permatang Berangan assemblyman Nor Hafizah Othman, they made their voices heard in the august House.
But several journalists who covered the proceedings were of the opinion that they could have performed better because at times, their speeches were perceived as incoherent and disjointed.
It brought back memories of a time
when the state assembly boasted of having formidable Opposition members such as
the late Datuk Azhar Ibrahim, Datuk Jahara Hamid, Datuk Dr Muhamad Farid Saad, Shariful Azhar Othman and Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Shah.
Perhaps, they could take their cue from Dr Muhamad Farid, who always showed comprehensive knowledge on a wide range of issues.
He did his homework, had clarity in his speech and would take on anyone, including former Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, without fear.
After covering the state legislative assembly for several years, this writer found the recent sitting a subdued affair.
Luckily, several PKR backbenchers sprang into action and looked more like Opposition members, pressing the state government for answers on various issues that affect Penangites.
Kebun Bungah assemblyman Jason Ong urged the state government to postpone the proposed assessment hike for at least another two years, claiming that it was not the right time as the people were still being burdened by the high cost of living.
He also took every opportunity to bring up the controversial Penang South Reclama-tion (PSR) near Teluk Kumbar, including urging the state government to establish a cooperative to improve the welfare and quality of life of the fishermen should the massive project come to fruition.
Machang Bubok assemblyman Lee Khai Loon raised the issue of reclamation as well.
He questioned the state government’s decision to undertake the PSR when the three man-made islands, together with Penang island and eight other cities in Malaysia, would sink, as claimed by the Centre for Governance and Political Studies.
The centre warned that the nine cities would sink in 30 years due to climate change.
Both even asked whether the state government would stop or reduce the size of PSR, which is the size of 3,600 football fields.
Although PKR is part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, both assemblymen carried out their duties well by asking difficult questions.
Another PKR representative – Penanti’s Dr Norlela Ariffin – also won my admiration for saying, “It’s every Muslim’s responsibility to dispel any fear against Islam, instead of allowing the religion to be misunderstood by non-Muslims.”
She was persistent in bringing up flood problems, questioning why the funds for development and flood mitigation projects were not forthcoming although Penang paid more than RM6bil in taxes to the Federal Government.
Oratory skills is not the only requirement but every assemblyman should be articulate, knowledgeable and able to present their views in a coherent manner.
These are the basic requirements of an elected representative, and the august House is clearly the place for them to show their abilities.
Before ending, I wish to pay tribute to the late Azhar, who passed away at University Malaya Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur last month.
The five-term Penaga assemblyman never shied away from speaking his mind and his service and experience were sorely missed after he quit politics in 2013.
The former teacher was known for his firebrand politics and was suspended on a few occasions for his outbursts during state assembly sittings when he was state Opposition leader between 2008 and 2013.
But on the sidelines of the state assembly, Cikgu Azhar, as he was known, was a media-friendly politician who always behaved like a perfect gentleman.
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