August House lacks ‘firepower’


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  • Tuesday, 19 Nov 2019

(From left) Muhamad Yusoff, Nor Hafizah and Mohd Yusni posing for a photograph during the swearing-in ceremony at the State Legislative Assembly building in Lebuh Leith, George Town, last year. Some pressmen say they could have performed better in the august House this term.

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.

The Sungai Dua assemblyman from Umno was not short of ideas, and came up with recommendations, criticisms and proposals on a few issues.

Together with PAS’ Penaga assemblyman Yusni Mat Piah and Umno’s Permatang Berangan assemblyman Nor Hafizah Othman, they had performed decently with their good attendance in making their voices heard in the august House.

But several pressmen 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 from those days when the state assembly boasted of having some formidable Opposition members like 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 detailed, comprehensive knowledge on a wide range of issues under the sun.

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 the real Opposition members, pressing the state government for answers on various issues that affected majority of Penangites.

Kebun Bungah assemblyman Jason Ong urged the state to postpone the proposed assessment hike for at least another two years, claiming 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 cast aspersions on the controversial Penang South Reclamation (PSR) near Teluk Kumbar, including urging the state government to establish a cooperative to empower, increase the welfare and the quality of fishermen’s life should the massive project come to fruition.

Machang Bubok assemblyman Lee Khai Loon pressed on the issue of reclamation as well.

He questioned the state government’s needs on undertaking the PSR when the three man-made islands, together with Penang island and eight other cities in Malaysia, would sink anyway, as warned by the Centre for Governance and Political Studies.

The centre had claimed that the nine cities would sink in 30 years due to climate change.

Both of them even asked whether the state government would stop or reduce the size of PSR, which is the size of 3,600 football fields, since it was going for a bond offering to finance a component of Penang Transport Master Plan.

Although PKR is part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, both assemblymen carried out their duties well by asking the difficult questions.

Another PKR representative –Penanti’s Dr Norlela Ariffin – also won my admiration for her thoughts that “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 also adamant in resolving 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.

An oratory skill is not the sole requirement, but every assemblyman should be articulate, knowledgeable and be able to present their views in a coherent way.

These are the basic requirements of an elected representative, and the august House is clearly the place where you can be sure that your brilliance is shining through.

Before I sign off, I wish to pay tribute to the late Azhar, who passed away at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in Kuala Lumpur last month.

The five-term Penaga assemblyman never shied away from speaking his mind, and his services 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 the state assembly sittings when he was the state’s Opposition Leader between 2008 and 2013.

But at the sideline of the state assembly, Cikgu Azhar was a media-friendly politician who always behaved like a perfect gentleman.

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