(Parliament House, Tuesday): The five-sixth majority of the Barisan Nasional in Parliament has made the Barisan Nasional government behave in the most arrogant manner in the 39-year history of Parliament in refusing to respect fundamental parliamentary conventions and traditions, utterly disregarding the rights of minority Members of Parliament.
Last Thursday, without notice whatsoever, the government suddenly decided to spring a surprise on all MPs by bringing forward the debate on the 1998 Supplementary Budget Bill, resulting in all MPs being unready for the debate.
Today, without notice again, the Defence Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Syed Albar, stood up immediately after question time to bring up an item which had just been placed in today’s Order Paper to be passed by the House as the first item of government business, namely to refer a set of proposed amendments to the Standing Orders to the Parliamentary Standing Order Committee for study before making its recommendations to the Dewan Rakyat.
Despite strong protests by Opposition MPs, the government used its brute majority in Parliament to ram through the motion, without giving any proper explanation for such unusual action.
I can think of only one reason for such railroading of a motion on the Standing Orders proposals which was placed only on the Order Paper today - that the Government is going to railroad the proposed changes to the Standing Orders at the Standing Orders Committee and rush its proposals for adoption by the Dewan Rakyat before the end of its present meeting.
What is the reason for such indecent haste, trampling on the rights of MPs and denying them enough time to give serious thoughts about amendments to the Standing Orders to restore to Parliament its meaningful role as the highest legislative and deliberative chamber in the land?
A cursory look at the proposed amendments show that apart from the proposal to introduce morning sittings to increase the hours of daily Parliamentary sitting, most of the amendments are retrogressive and even more undemocratic which will make the Malaysian Parliament a mockery in the Commonwealth Parliament.
In fact, MPs are being treated like school children in some of the ridiculous amendments, like the proposal to reduce the number of questions an MP can ask at each parliamentary meeting - which can be as long as 50 days during the budget meeting - from 20 questions to 10 questions. Even more ridiculous are the proposals that oral questions should not exceed more than 40 words and motions of urgent, definite public importance should not exceed 300 words.
In my 29 years as an MP, I have never seen the Dewan Rakyat treated so shabbily, where the Barisan Nasional government, armed with five-sixth majority in Parliament, simply treat the Dewan Rakyat as a rubber stamp which must do the Executive’s bidding, with no parliamentary mind of its own.