THE Dewan Rakyat is a sacred institution not only to the parliamentarians who debate in its hallowed halls but to all Malaysians as well.
For the past few months, we have heard many quarters demanding for Parliament to reconvene in light of the surge in the number of Covid-19 cases nationwide. The reason given was that legislators needed to discuss ways to tackle the pandemic and hold the government accountable for its actions under the Emergency Ordinance. These seemed like perfectly acceptable reasons which every Malaysian could accept.
But when the day finally came, we were in for a rude awakening as certain politicians showed their true colours in a spectacularly disgusting fashion. I do not want to delve into the details as much has been written and shared on the exchanges between supposed "Yang Berhormat" whose actions did not seem to merit such an honorific.
I could not bear to watch the entire proceedings, but I did catch some snippets which were uploaded and shared throughout the day. I shook my head in disbelief and dismay when I viewed them.
What was the point in all this hullabaloo of reopening the Dewan Rakyat when it is painfully obvious that MPs could not put their differences aside for the sake of the rakyat?
The one saving grace on that first day was when Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz took the floor in the afternoon. The iron hot temperature of the Dewan Rakyat lowered somewhat and MPs finally seemed to show maturity as fruitful exchanges and debates occurred.
Perhaps it was because Tengku Zafrul himself, as a technocrat and not a politician, was able to find the middle ground in what seems to be the increasingly divisive and partisan politics practised in Malaysia.
Despite my previous misgivings about the Emergency proclamation, I switched off my screen feeling that it was perhaps justified. No one needs to be told – more so these politicians – that the situation right now is dire. The healthcare system is stretched, we have more and more deaths and people are struggling to eke out a living amid the lockdowns.
In the past two weeks, this has become personal for me as I lost two dear colleagues to the virus.
I believe Malaysians everywhere had hoped that with the Dewan Rakyat finally reconvened, we would be able to make better sense of the pandemic. Personally, I had hoped for a little more clarity and a cogent way forward. Yet, within the first hour of the proceedings, I had that familiar feeling that parliamentarians, deep down, do not have the rakyat’s interests at heart.
Of course, I would be wrong to assign blame to each and every MP. Some, like Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar presented her arguments and, most importantly, the plight of the people on the ground in such an eloquent, respectful and firm manner.
I believe nothing will come out of the special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat as long as certain MPs continue to behave as as uncouthly as they did. The way forward is to select the best of the best across party lines to come together and work on a solution for the long term.
Steps in the right direction have been already taken with the formation of the bipartisan National Recovery Council (NRC). Recently, it was announced that the government had invited opposition members to join the council alongside other notable subject matter experts, industry players, NGOs and specific business sector representatives.
We have a higher probability of snow falling in Malaysia than our recalcitrant parliamentarians behaving civilly with one another and working together to come up with a workable strategy to bring us out of this pandemic.
I had hopes but they were dashed, which, unfortunately, confirmed my subconscious notion that you really cannot expect decorum from clowns.