Cranking up the volume

There are many ways to draw attention, but some politicians only seem to know the trite methods.

THE special five-day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat was meant for Members of Parliament to express their views on how best to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was also an opportunity to hear and grill certain ministers about what they have or haven’t been doing.

The takeaway from those five days indicates that Parliament was overshadowed by other issues. And the uncouth behaviour of some MPs leaves much to be desired.

It’s always the same recalcitrant few whose attention-seeking antics include name calling, shouting, taking aggressive stances and heckling. Perhaps their legion of supporters enjoys such theatrics, or maybe those politicians needed to release some steam since the Dewan Rakyat hadn’t convened for a while.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they needed to be loud to gain the attention of the Speaker, who has been accused of being biased and not giving sufficient time for MPs to speak.

They are not alone. There was one senior backbencher who suddenly blurted out something about a “pesta arak” (liquor party) without being able to substantiate his claim. Don’t even talk about the “probok probok” MP.

For many Malaysians who were hoping or naively believing their representatives could speak intelligently on issues relating to managing Covid-19 and how we should prepare to re-open the country, they were stunned to learn how wrong they were.

Many MPs who spoke were more interested in addressing the status of the Emergency laws, which is when Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan threw a curve ball by announcing that they had been revoked.

That blindsided the nation, and given the seriousness of the issue, we’d expect such news to be given greater importance, not delivered so nonchalantly.

The Law Minister’s bombshell provided the opportunity for the Opposition to bang on the subject.

Yes, of course it’s an important Constitutional issue, but by then, the Covid-19 agenda faded away and appeared relegated.

Lawyer MPs were suddenly discussing points of law and provisions of the Constitution, forgetting that while they are lawmakers, the Dewan Rakyat isn’t a courtroom.

Takiyuddin has now found himself in a quagmire because the Yang diPertuan Agong has put on record that he is “greatly disappointed” that the six Emergency Ordinances were rescinded without his consent.

To put it succinctly, the King has said that he has yet to consent to the revocation.

The government’s reply, quoting the Federal Constitution, explained that the Cabinet decided to advise the King to revoke the Emergency Ordinances, and that he must accept its advice as outlined under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution. Basically, the government is saying it has advised the King and that the power remains with the Prime Minister and Cabinet, implying the Cabinet doesn’t need His Majesty’s consent.

As with any interpretation of the law, depending on who you talk to and what you want to believe to suit your political allegiance, it can go either way.

However, the relationship between the government and the Rulers may no longer be the same, at least for the time being.

Worse still, the impression given is that the government is afraid of a debate or insinuating that it has lost its majority.

The strong choice of words used in the King’s statement is almost unprecedented and very unusual. Palace announcements are usually not so direct and blunt.

But even before the press statement was issued, those close to royalty had heard private remarks and comments that feelings had been hurt.

The current standoff hasn’t developed into a Constitutional crisis, although some lawmakers seem to be rooting for it. However, that’s the last thing Malaysia needs now.

I believe our institutions are aware that Malaysia needs to be on track again.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has led to pressing health and economic problems, many countries don’t also have the political jeopardy of an unstable government with a wafer-thin majority.

The present political predicament can’t continue. The government is regarded as a backdoor one because it took an unconventional way of forming.

Never mind if it was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who opened the door – in a perplexing way – for Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to come in, but the reality is that issues of mandate and legitimacy will continue to nag the PM.

The only way is to hold a general election, but certainly not now. Let’s get our act together by expediting vaccinations and achieving herd immunity first.

After that, the politicians can fight as much as they want to. They can kill each other for all we care, but don’t reel the rakyat in to help you get into power or remain there.

Following the Sabah elections débâcle of causing a spike in Covid-19 cases, we don’t want the electorate to be your sacrifice to fulfil your selfish political ambitions. Spare us the drivel of wanting to serve us, please.

But still, let’s give credit where it’s due. While most MPs, especially the alpha egoistic males, were keener to trade barbs in Parliament, a few showed that they could put aside political differences and speak rationally.

Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah and minister Khairy Jamaluddin certainly provided hope and optimism for many of us who have begun to lose faith in our politicians, especially the ageing ones who still can’t leave the stage.

Ong is currently aiding Khairy in the vaccination programme in Selangor and his bipartisan approach of Opposition and government working together is a good start.

In fact, the government should have adopted this strategy last year, but better late than never.

In an interview, he revealed his role in helping advise the government on opening certain parts of the economy as vaccination keeps more people safe, and exuded confidence in the government’s vaccination programme working well.

As former Treasury secretary- general Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Kassim said, Ong showed he is not interested in demonising anyone and that it’s highly commendable he didn’t play politics at this time of national crisis.

The DAP leader has also taken to social media to correct misinformation about the supply and sale of Sinovac in Malaysia. He also shared his knowledge about factories hit by Covid-19 in Selangor, pointing out that many of the infections transpired at workers’ quarters and not necessarily on factory premises.

Nurul provided good suggestions on how the country can deal with the pandemic and cited examples, saying cases may multiply if the government rashly eases movement restrictions solely based on vaccination coverage.

She noted the emergence of more infectious variants in the country, besides quoting experiences in Britain and Iceland that saw cases spike in recent weeks, despite having vaccinated more than 60% of their populations with at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

Khairy has also been commended for his comprehensive presentation, delivered in a confident and assertive manner. He was able to answer every question raised by the MPs later.

But Malaysia is in deep trouble. It’s time for Malaysians, especially the politicians, to stay above politics. There is a time for everything and right now, it’s about saving lives and jobs.

We need to restore confidence among the people and investors. The change must come from the heart of the nation. Malaysians hope our MPs will rise above partisan politics.

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Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.


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