Contentious issues give MPs food for thought

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 21 Jul 2013

IT may have been the fasting month but there was no exception for the Dewan Rakyat where work was concerned.

Many contentious issues occupied the debates and lawmakers were, at one point, forced to carry on way past midnight.

The week got off to a “hot” start when several Pakatan Rakyat leaders announced on Monday at the Parliament lobby that they were filing a lawsuit against the Election Commis­sion (EC) which, among others, seeks to nullify the May 5 general election results while calling for fresh polls.

The salvo against the EC came as Barisan Nasional and PAS were busy campaigning for the upcoming Kuala Besut by-election.

The EC’s “budget” of over RM400mil and the controversy regarding the use of indelible ink were among the hot topics during the debate on the Supplementary Supply Bill.

Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) questioned the EC’s need for an additional RM60mil for expenses incurred in 2012 in addition to the initial budget of RM45mil and RM360mil for 2013.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim clarified that a one-off allocation of RM400mil was set aside by the Treasury for EC’s estimated expenditure in 2012.

He said the additional RM45mil was sought as the EC had spent RM60mil of the RM400mil and returned the balance to the Treasury when the general election was not held last year.

Rafizi Ramli (PKR-Pandan) also caught the attention of the House when he demanded that the Government reveal the identity of the company that supplied the indelible ink.

Rafizi alleged that an individual, whom he described as a direct tender expert, managed to secure the contract to supply the ink due to his close ties with EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof and his deputy Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar.

Abdul Aziz denied the allegations the following day but Rafizi continued to press Shahidan for more information.

Several Barisan MPs challenged Rafizi not to hide behind parliamentary privilege and to repeat his allegations outside the Dewan.

Datuk Reezal Merican Naina Merican (BN-Kepala Batas) then moved a motion to refer the Pandan MP to the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee.

Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia rejected the motion but reminded lawmakers to refrain from making accusations against those who were not able to defend themselves before the House.

He advised Rafizi to repeat the allegations outside Parliament. Rafizi did so later at the Parliament lobby.

Another heated argument broke out on Thursday when Simpang Renggam MP Liang Teck Meng was spared from parliamentary disciplinary action over his earlier allegations that Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had stashed millions of ringgit in 20 offshore accounts.

Pandikar then allowed debate on the motion moved by Jeff Ooi (DAP-Jelutong) to cite Liang, from Gerakan, to the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee for misleading and confusing the House.

A fiery debate ensued between Barisan and Pakatan lawmakers with Pandikar reminding parliamentarians that their antics as “gentlemen of the House” were being broadcast live.

Liang defended himself, saying he had no intention to mislead the House and merely wanted the authorities to investigate the allegations against Anwar.

In a bloc division voting, a total of 107 MPs voted against the motion while 60 MPs voted to support the motion.

The controversial festival greeting by bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, meanwhile, “united” Muslim and non-Muslim lawmakers who called for stern action against the couple.

Minister in charge of unity, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, said the couple’s insensitive action had damaged efforts to foster racial unity.

Despite the many issues, it was the Bill seeking an additional allocation of RM513,469,560 for several ministries and departments for development expenditure that forced lawmakers to stay back in the House till late at night.

On Wednesday, a motion was passed to “stop-the-clock” in Parliament just before midnight to allow lawmakers to complete the debates for 17 ministries and agencies.

The Bill was finally passed at about 12.45am – (the third time that Parliament had the “stop-the-clock” in 23 years) – with Pandikar adjourning the Dewan sine die on Thursday.

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