Anti-Fake News Act repealed again

THE Bill to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act was passed after bloc voting which was marred by accusations of sexism against a deputy minister.

After two days of debates and resistance by the Opposition, the Bill was passed when 92 MPs voted for the law to be abolished while 51 were against it.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri (BN-Bera) called for a bloc vote at the policy stage which saw 93 ayes and 53 nays.

The Bill was tabled for the second time on Monday after a cooling-off period of one year under Article 68 of the Federal Constitution was over.

It was the Pakatan Harapan government’s second attempt to abolish the Act since coming to power in May 2018.

In August last year, the Dewan Rakyat passed the Bill to repeal the Act.

However, it hit a roadblock after the Senate rejected it late last year.

Earlier, the proceedings erupted in chaos when a deputy minister made a sexist remark against a Barisan Nasional lawmaker and was ordered to retract his comment.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said he was unsure of Datuk Seri Azalina Othman’s (BN-Pengerang) gender due to her appearance.

“Sometimes even I can’t differentiate if you are a woman or a man, ” he said in jest to Azalina’s earlier remark when she was debating the Bill to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act.

Hanipa had given way for Azalina to interject while he was replying but she took her time as she was looking for her glasses.

“I want to wear my glasses because I want to see you clearly (referring to Hanipa).

“Sometimes you look big, sometimes you look small, ” Azalina said as she put on her glasses.

Not to be outdone by Azalina’s jibe, Hanipa, before continuing with his reply, said he had trouble identifying her gender.

This caused a ruckus when several Opposition MPs stood up and demanded that Hanipa retract his statement.

Azalina too demanded that Hanipa retract and apologise for his remark.

Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) also stood up and said he had sat on the committee to amend the Parliament’s Standing Order that no sexist remarks should be made in the House.

“He (Hanipa) clearly made a sexist remark and questioned the gender of a lawmaker. He must retract the statement, ” said Dr Wee.

Other Opposition MPs also stood up and jeered Hanipa, calling him an irresponsible and low-class deputy minister.

Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon ordered Hanipa to retract his statement which he obliged.

“I apologise. I will retract my statement, ” he said.

Opposition lawmakers, however, continued to heckle Hanipa, saying his answers on the Bill were not up to par.

Awang Hashim (PAS-Pendang) and Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) called on Mohd Rashid to proceed to vote without the need to hear Hanipa’s replies.

Awang said Hanipa’s replies would lead to more heated exchange as they were provocative in nature.

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