Last week at the Dewan Rakyat
WHILE tabling the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2003 on Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad paused to drink some water.
He sounded tired, and his voice was slightly hoarse and lacked the enthusiasm it usually had every time he spoke at functions.
“He is human after all, only more gifted than most of us. Just see how much he has accomplished in one morning,” said an MP.
Just then Dr Mahathir walked past us at the lobby and shook hands with the MP before going to a group of journalists waiting for him for a press conference.
Flashback: Just a few days ago, the masterful orator had spoken for hours at the Umno general assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre, which ended on Saturday, and left for Langkawi that night to inspect several development projects on the resort island the next day.
He did not attend any official function on Monday but perhaps he was preparing for a busy Tuesday, which began with the announcement at his office of a Cabinet reshuffle.
Dr Mahathir, who is also Finance Minister, then went to Parliament House where he gave a lengthy reply to a question from Datuk Husni Hanadzlah (BN–Tambun) on the performance of bumiputras in economy, and science and technology.
He also replied to another question from Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob (BN–Sipitang) regarding the benefits of the RM7.1bil stimulus package to the people.
When he tabled the Bill to amend Article 46 of the Federal Constitution, that would allow 25 new parliamentary constituencies to be created, it was barely 11am.
Dr Mahathir was not the only one who seemed to be slightly under the weather – several MPs were not in the best of health either.
Deputy Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Khalid Yunus wore sunglasses in the Dewan because of sore eyes, while Kubang Kerian MP Husam Musa’s face was swollen because an allergic reaction from his toothache medication.
Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar came to Dewan on crutches and a cast over a fractured ankle.
Throughout the week, when Mahfuz wanted to speak, the Barisan MPs would taunt him, telling him to sit and rest his ankle.
However, it was the state of democracy that the opposition MPs were more concerned with – a system they described as “crippled”.
It was Datuk Mustafa Ali (PAS–Dungun) who used that description while debating the Bill.
“I can say that we do have a working democracy in our country. It is a functioning democracy but a crippled one in many ways,” he said.
He said the election process, for example, had many shortcomings, and he questioned whether it was “just and fair”.
Later, Mustafa had to bow to the wishes of the system when his proposal to have nine more parliamentary seats, in addition to the 25 that was being created, was voted out by the majority of the MPs.
Yan MP Nasharudin Mat Isa, who is also PAS secretary-general, said the party had made its own study on the delineation exercise and felt that a few states should have more MPs – two each in Terengganu, Kedah and Kelantan and one each in Malacca, Perlis and the Federal Territory.
“At least they did not stage a walkout although this is also a waste of our time,” said a Barisan MP, referring to an April sitting when the Opposition left the hall as the House was about to vote on the motion supporting the Election Commission’s delineation exercise.
The following day, DAP MPs blew their top when Deputy Speaker Datuk Lim Si Cheng stopped Fong Po Kuan (DAP–Batu Gajah) from presenting a motion right after Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had tabled the National Service Training Bill.
Fong had wanted to seek a postponement to the debate on the Bill for six months so that more public discussions could be held on the matter.
Her attempts to read the motion was shot down several times by Lim, causing an uproar in the House when her colleagues jumped to her defence and the backbenchers told them to abide by Lim’s decision.
Lim had to adjourn the sitting for five minutes. When it resumed, it was Zahir who took to the Chair to explain that according to Standing Orders, Fong could raise the motion shortly before the MPs voted on the Bill.
So when the debate ended, Fong stood up to do her task, but the Barisan MPs promptly voted against the motion.
Asked to describe the action by the opposition MPs, Shah Alam MP Mohd Zin Mohamed, who is also Backbenchers Club chairman, said the move was to frustrate government business.
“It only shows the narrow mentality of the Opposition. They know that government business takes priority but they find the grey area in the law and try to use them against the Government.
“You cannot do that, the law has to be looked at as a whole,” he said.
Kota Melaka MP Kerk Kim Hock, in supporting Fong’s motion, said they had to at least try to use the provisions provided. “You never know what will happen unless the law is tested.”
Some of the MPs may be sick and the system may be crippled in eyes of the Opposition. But at least democracy is looking healthy in the Dewan since it was certainly well exercised by the Yang Berhormats.
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