IT was a week of drama and anticipation in and outside the august hall as Parliament started to convene for the last meeting of the year, culminating with the announcement of Budget 2017 on Friday.
Lawmakers were eager to get on with debates in the run-up to the Budget presentation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Friday.
There were initial signs of decorum among lawmakers when the new Minister’s Question Time was introduced in the Dewan on the first day.
Unlike the usual question-and- answer sessions where a prior notice in writing was required to ask questions, this new segment allowed the lawmakers to raise questions under 30 seconds to a minister, who would then provide an answer to them under two-and-a-half minutes.
A beaming Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia congratulated all the lawmakers for keeping order and not diving into unnecessary antics or a verbal wars.
However, any semblance of decorum among some Opposition MPs quickly eroded on Friday when the Prime Minister was delivering his Budget speech.
A large number of Opposition MPs, except for PAS lawmakers and Parti Warisan Sabah leader and former Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, staged an unprecedented walkout during the Budget announcement after causing a ruckus in the Dewan.
The boisterous Opposition lawmakers interrupted Najib’s speech by standing up and displaying placards with the words “Siapa MO1?” (Who is Malaysian Official 1?).
After trying to no avail to restore order, Pandikar Amin told the lawmakers that they were free to leave the hall.
Later at the Parliament lobby, Najib and several Barisan Nasional MPs condemned the Opposition MPs’ behaviour, saying it was unbecoming and disregarded the sanctity of the august hall.
It was a stark contrast to the feel-good feelings earlier in the week when lawmakers approved a special motion to honour the nation’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
The controversial “pretzel dog” issue also caught the attention of lawmakers from both sides of the divide.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz labelled the ruling by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) as being done by “ignoramuses”.
Even PAS Youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Aziz said the issue of a food item being halal or not is based on its content rather than name.
The matter was finally put to rest when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said Jakim was still in discussion with pretzel chain Auntie Annie’s over the matter.
The issue of new laws against child sex offenders and sexual grooming saw chemical castration being proposed as punishment by Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin (PKR-Bukit Katil).
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun said it could be considered if lawmakers agreed to debate it.
Shamsul Iskandar also urged lawmakers to support The Star’s R.AGE effort to push for new laws against child sex offenders, under its latest #MPsAgainstPredators campaign.
The anticipation over PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member’s Bill being tabled fizzled out.
The Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 did not come up for debates.
However, PAS lawmakers are still hopeful that the Bill will come up for debate, with Parliament in session for the next 20 days or more.
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