Literature alive and kicking during debates


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 13 Apr 2003

BY DALILAH IBRAHIM

WHO says Malay literature, such as pantun (Malay rhymes), has lost its charm and faded away in modern times? It was alive and kicking in the Dewan last week. 

It began during the debate on the motion to support the Election Commission’s report calling for 25 new parliamentary seats and 63 new state seats. 

One could almost expect the pantun coming since it was Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who was given the task to wind up the motion. 

Dr Rais is known among his fellow MPs for his oratory skills, including the use of pantun. 

His pantun would often result in laughter and thumps on the table, not to mention red faces if the pantun was directed at them. 

“We know Dr Rais is a champion when it comes to Malay literature. In a way, other MPs also try to measure up,” said a backbencher. 

Another MP commented that citing a pantun was a polite way to be cynical. “It is also like a puzzle that will always linger in one’s mind,” he added. 

At one juncture, Dr Rais used his trademark pantun to describe the Opposition: 

Nobat rebana dendang perantau, 

Rakit sehaya putus tali. 

Ubat kena pantang terlampau, 

Penyakit lama datang kembali. 

Not to be outdone, Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP – Kepong) interrupted Dr Rais for clarification and came up with this response: 

Matahari mula terbit, 

Makan nasi laut pagi. 

Buka mulut kena sedikit, 

Berpaut sehasta tali. 

Earlier during debate, Dr Tan came up with an anecdote to convey his uncertainty over the government’s move to create the new seats. 

He said Chinese philosopher Mengzi, in his book Liang Hui Wang, said: 

Yi ruo suo wei, qiu ruo suo yu, you yuan mu qiu yu ye” (Climbing the tree to catch the fish, using the wrong method and direction – therefore it would be impossible to achieve the goal). 

From the start, the Opposition had made it clear that they would not support the Bill, questioning the government’s “hastiness'' in wanting to pass it. 

“Why the hurry? You cannot help but speculate there is an ulterior motive,” said an opposition MP. 

PAS MPs in their protests said the Government had deliberately alienated Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis in the redelineation of seats. 

He claimed that the Election Commission was only following orders specifically “from Umno” to ensure its victory in the next elections. 

Despite the numerous allegations and interruptions from the Opposition, Dr Rais kept his cool during the winding up.  

At one point he said: “I am not like Parit Buntar (Datuk Dr Hasan Mohamed Ali), I am not emotional. I say things based on logic.” 

Dr Hasan then repeatedly shouted and raised his hand when Dr Rais did not give way. 

Frustrated that their voices were not heard, Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi (PAS – Kuala Terengganu) tried to use the Standing Orders to strike out the motion. 

Speaker Tun Dr Mohamed Zahir Ismail, however, said the Standing Orders Dr Syed Azman cited had nothing to do with the motion. 

It was therefore not surprising when the Opposition staged a walkout during the bloc voting. 

Reporters at the lobby immediately swamped the opposition MPs. 

Kerk Kim Hock (DAP – Kota Melaka) said the Opposition had planned to stage the walkout if they found the reply unacceptable. 

“He did not answer our questions. Our questions are legitimate but he picked on the technicalities,” he exclaimed. 

 

Kerk also said that although it was recorded that the Opposition did not vote, the public would know that they were against it. 

“Even if we vote, the result will still be against us. We have registered our protest strongly (by not voting),” he added. 

 

Later at a press conference, Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said it would not have made a difference if the Government tabled the motion later in the year. 

 

“They (the Opposition) will still come up with the same allegations,” he said. 

The 20-day sitting came to an end on Thursday. Till the next sitting in June, we bid the Yang Berhormats adieu.  

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