Do politicians really care about Parliament? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Malaysiakini : “The only politician ever to have entered parliament with honourable intentions, was Guy Fawkes.”- Terry Deary
| I keep hearing from people of how this backdoor government is
hijacking Parliament or how Parliament has somehow become some sort of
totem for democracy in this country. I really do not get this.
the average Joe Rakyat really care about what is happening in
Parliament? First, because we have an education system that does not
place any sort of emphasis in the legislative or judicial process, the
average Malaysian does not understand the function of Parliament or
indeed the function of these committees in Parliament.
Pakatan Harapan was in power, its MPs had a very lackadaisical attitude
towards Parliament and their functions as MPs. For the sittings that did
happen, there was always a lack of quorum. Press reports of these
incidents were met with indifference and most people could not be
bothered – certainly not politicians – for justifying their absence from
what has suddenly become a sacred duty of those elected into office
because of the palace coup by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
November of last year after the Dewan Rakyat failed to make its quorum
for a second time, then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (and Harapan
chairperson) said that he would speak to lawmakers and remind them to
attend Parliament and represent the interests of their constituents.
“They were very anxious to be candidates for election but after having
been elected, they are not behaving as if they are serious about serving
the people.” When the debate of Budget 2020 was halted,
then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong sent out
a circular and made public statements where he reminded political
operatives that attendance should be "improved".
course, this being Harapan and all the subterfuge going on, the then
prime minister had to remind everyone if they had an issue with him,
they should confront him openly and not use their absence from
Parliament as some sort of message.
“There are many other ways to
express their views. If they don't like me, they can say so openly. I am
subject to criticism... if you are a leader, you are expected to be
criticised,” he said.
much so that of all people, out in the cold then opposition leader
Ismail Sabri Yaakob (now senior minister) said - "It looks as if the
parliamentarians and the ministers from Harapan are not interested in
the Dewan. I think if you are not interested in the debates and not
interested in being in the Dewan, then I suggest to the government to
just dissolve this government.”
Of course, in that particular incident, Ismail Sabri did not know how many opposition MPs were in attendance but he did give a rational answer
as to the importance of government representatives to attend - "Because
this budget was tabled by the finance minister, so this is the
government's budget. They should be in the Dewan to hear the debates
from the opposition.”
So when Harapan was in power they really did
not seem as interested in the sanctity of Parliament as they do now
when they are out in the cold. Of course, if all you are using
Parliament for is to gain power instead of exercising it, this would be a
Lack of quorum
Check out the behaviour of
Perikatan Nasional (PN) aligned groups, who attempt to subvert power in
various state governments, for the full range of racist or uncouth
behaviour to understand the mentality of some Malaysians politicians and
their respect for legislative houses.
All this makes a mockery
of the democratic process. not to mention desensitises us from the very
dire consequences of actions by people who believe that fascism, either
religious or racial, are acceptable forms of democratic platforms.
of this did not go unnoticed by some political operatives from Harapan,
some of whom posted messages on Facebook and Twitter of the lack of
quorum and made statements encouraging active participation by Harapan
lawmakers to represent their constituents instead of just loitering
around Parliament and engaging in factional politics. The same can also
be said of Umno and MCA representatives who also attempted to get MPs to
take the process seriously.
All you have to do is a little
research online to see how a lack of quorum and missing MPs have
resulted in votes which narrowly pass “dumb” policies or put “good”
policies in limbo. What we are dealing with here happens in most
democracies but the reality is that for Harapan, which is dealing with a
monolithic racial and religious establishment, it does not have the
luxury or the MPs for these types of shenanigans.
Now, of course,
it’s all about how this backdoor government is scared of Parliament but
when Harapan had the power to carry of reforms and draw attention to
issues that were important to the base, they really did not seem
interested to carry out the functions of elected representatives. Let us
not delve into why they didn't do it but rather how their incompetence
and political skulduggery continues to return to bite them on their
behinds. Harapan when they were in power, demonstrated that all
the parliamentary special committees essentially meant bupkis. Those
special select committees that we were told were there to act as checks
and balances to the government turned out to be fait accompli to the old
Selayang MP William Leong, a political operative who I
think is one of the more rational political operatives around,
apparently had no idea of the scope of his Select Committee on Major
Public Appointments, even publicly asking for a meeting with then prime
minister Mahathir to define the scope of his committee.
Select committee member Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (Kubang Kerian) said: "If we want to continue with this select committee, let it function. Otherwise, we might just as well dissolve it."
are so many lessons to be learnt from this backdoor government, but
more importantly from what Harapan did wrong in their brief time in
power. I remember when before the historic elections, there were many
political operatives who were rearing to champion their constituents in
Parliament. Finally, they said the people had a voice in Parliament.
happened? What happened to all those political reformists that wanted
to change the system? When you have the chairperson of your alliance and
the prime minister complaining of a lack of quorum and meaningless
sub-committees which makes no difference, the base has been sold up the
I sincerely hope Harapan is learning
lessons from all of this. Most folks are thinking about how they are
going to overcome this pandemic than obsessing over when Parliament is
going to reconvene. The irony is that when Parliament could have meant
something, Harapan treated it like the way how they said BN did over the
long Umno watch.