Sunday, July 25, 2021

5 things we don’t want to see in the upcoming Parliament sitting

As the upcoming session is only five days and held after a prolonged hiatus, it is all the more important to make the best of it.

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At long last, the Dewan Rakyat will reconvene on July 26 after around eight months following the emergency proclamation earlier this year. In his wisdom, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong has pushed for the federal legislature to meet “as soon as possible” and the government has acceded.

But I wouldn’t want to pop the champagne just yet over the five-day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. If past sittings are anything to go by, our lawmakers do not accord the dignity that the House deserves, contrary to the polemics they spew in wanting Parliament to reconvene.

Because the upcoming session is only five days and held after a prolonged hiatus, it is all the more important to make the best of the sitting. In this regard, I wish to remind our MPs to abstain from doing these five things:

1. Turning the House into a circus

Going by past experience, grown men and women, impeccably dressed to dignify the country’s apex legislature, can descend into a schoolyard with name-calling that would put even delinquent schools to shame. Racist and sexist remarks have also been passed with utmost callousness in the hallowed chambers and this applies to both sides of the divide.

Do we need such freak shows at a time of unprecedented crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic? Lets accord Parliament the respect it is due.

2. Turning Parliament into a rubber stamp

For the longest time, our lawmakers have only “legitimated” and not “legislated” bills brought before them. Which is ironic because as the name suggests, lawmakers’ duty is to, well, “make laws”.

Over the seven months when the emergency was enforced, many ordinances were passed as the legislatures had been suspended. These will be laid before the House. Hopefully, MPs will play the effective check-and-balance role that they are supposed to. Scrutinise the bills and government expenses with a fine-tooth comb and vote as they deem fit, not according to party lines.

3. Giving half-baked debates and replies

If Parliament is to function as an avenue where laws are made and the government is held to account, its proceedings must be up to mark. Debates must be succinct and backed up with hard data, precedents and cogent arguments. Questions during the Q&A sessions must be relevant and of national interest, not laced with political agendas. Is that too much to ask?

One only needs to check out the Hansard, available for download at the Parliament website, to see how such fundamental requirements are lacking in a legislature that has been around for 64 years. Because the duration of the upcoming meeting is short, it is all the more important to have a fruitful and quality proceeding.

4. Political grandstanding

Parliament and political grandstanding are as synonymous as Covid-19 and face masks. Pre-pandemic, the legislatures were where lawmakers took jibes at their opponents, some more low-blow than others.

The more media attention these antics garner, the better it is for these MPs. But we are living in extraordinary times. We need workers now, not jokers. If there are MPs who cannot contain their urge for political grandstanding during this five-day sitting, then I suggest they take leave from attending.

5. No to confidence vote – for now

While doubt still lingers over the legitimacy of the Muhyiddin Yassin administration, especially as Umno threatens to pull out from Perikatan Nasional, there is really no need to put a no-confidence vote to the House – yet.

Going down that road, especially with Covid-19 still all around us, risks the country descending into a fourth wave of the pandemic, especially if it leads to snap polls. Have we forgotten about the Sabah election experience last year? The prime minister has said he will call for a general election once the health situation permits. So, let this parliamentary sitting focus on passing laws and holding the government in check. Changing the government can wait until a more suitable time.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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