MPs need to show they have more than just talk


  • Opinion
  • Sunday, 16 Jun 2013

THE first meeting of the 13th Parliament on June 24 promises to be exciting, but for all the wrong reasons.

From what we have observed so far, the perfunctory oath-taking ceremony and the election of the Speaker will be anything but dull.

The results of the 13th general election held on May 5 are by no means finalised with both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat filing a total of 50 petitions in the Election Court to challenge the results of certain seats.

That is part of the due process and no one will question the right of either side to do what is allowed by the law.

However, it is the antics that are being played out in the court of public opinion that are testing the patience of the public at large.

The briefing for all MPs before the new Parliament sits is a traditional affair whereby MPs are briefed on what is required of them as members of the august House.

Here is where the newbies will learn for the first time about the protocol, the Standing Orders, and what is expected of them in and out of the House.

It is a wonderful opportunity for the newbies to learn from the veterans and get to know one another.

There is a world of difference between the political talk in the heat of the elections and the standard of debate that we expect once these elected candidates don their official suits and play by parliamentary rules.

Yes, there will be the uncouth ones who think there is no difference but in the main, we expect high quality debate with substance. Now is the time for the MPs to show us that they not only have the gift of the gab, but are able to take on their opponents with facts and witty repartee.

The Pakatan MPs seek to score political points by boycotting this meeting. Even the sole DAP MP who attended found himself in the dock for daring to disobey party orders.

So what are these people talking about when they say MPs must be free to vote their conscience and not be bound by the Whip? That the way forward for a mature Parliament is when all are able to engage professionally and at times, rise above party lines, for the good of the nation.

And there was even further grandstanding when there was talk that Pakatan may even boycott the oath-taking ceremony. Fortunately, good sense prevailed though one can expect that even a simple ceremony like this can be turned into an opportunity to play to the public gallery.

As a nation matures, we should also expect the institutions to get better.

True, some of the institutions that are the foundations of our nation, like Parliament, have taken a battering through the years, and are in need of repair.

For Parliament, specifically, the years of a House dominated by one side are gone and the possibility of a full-fledged two-party system is within reach. But it is a work in progress and both sides must show us that they are capable of meeting our expectations.

Partisanship is a given in any democracy, but in all the mature legislative chambers in the world, the spirit of bipartisanship is also strong. And that requires all MPs, whatever their affiliation, to discern when is the time and what are the issues for which the nation expects them to be in one accord.

Indulging in child-like behaviour and polemics simply because of the party badge has absolutely no place in any Parliament in a mature democracy. We will wait and see what our Yang Berhormats have to offer come June 24. For that will signal whether there will be order or disorder in the House that will last for the next five years.

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