Abdullah as Prime Minister should move a motion on the horrors of the tsunami terror after his visit to the Aceh ground zero as the first item of business in the special sitting of Parliament on January 17
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Saturday): After his visit to Aceh, ground zero of the Sumatra earthquake-tsunamis catastrophe two weeks ago, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday: “I’ve never seen such destruction. I never saw World War II, so it’s hard to imagine…”
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who also flew over the tsunami-ravaged landscape of Aceh yesterday, sombrely told reporters: “I have never seen such utter destruction mile after mile. You wonder where are the people? What has happened to them?”
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, who visited Aceh on Wednesday, said he had been in war and been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but he had never seen anything like the devastation of the Aceh province on Sumatra island.
Abdullah has seen both the destructiveness of the Dec. 26 tsunamis on the northern coasts of Peninsular Malaysia in Penang, Perak, Kedah and Perlis and the devastation wrought in north-west coast of Sumatra in Aceh, where whole towns and villages had been obliterated as if in a nuclear holocaust.
This has given him an unprecedented insight and unprecedented responsibility, and this is why I call on Abdullah as Prime Minister to move a motion on the horrors of the tsunami terror as the first item of business in the special sitting of Parliament on January 17.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said yesterday that Kemaman MP Ahmad Shabery Cheek would be tabling a motion on the tsunami tragedy during the special sitting of Parliament to record the MPs’ condolences.
There is no tsunami motion in the Dewan Rakyat Order Paper for January 17, which had been convened to debate and pass the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 – as confirmed by the parliamentary website. http://www.parlimen.gov.my
This means that Ahmad Shabery can only raise the issue under Standing Order 18 as a matter of urgent definite public importance, which would allow for a one-hour debate but suffers from the fatal weakness that there will be no definite resolution adopted by the House to clearly and specifically register the views and sentiments of Members of Parliament.
Furthermore, the biggest tsunami catastrophe in living memory claiming 68 lives in Malaysia and probably 200,000 lives in 13 countries, maiming half a million and displacing five million people, with the threat of a “second wave of deaths” as many as those killed in the direct impact in the aftermath from an epidemic of diseases, should be addressed in a proper and serious manner, and not by way of Standing Order 18 motion debate expressing MPs’ condolences.
The tsunami catastrophe has overshadowed the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 in importance and magnitude, warranting Abdullah in moving a motion in Parliament when it reconvenes on January 17 as the first item of business, which would be an occasion for the Prime Minister to give a progress report on both the local and international dimensions of the deadly Asian tsunamis.
The Malaysian Parliament may be the first Parliament in the world to debate the tsunami catastrophe, which will a a heavy responsibility which the Malaysian government and parliamentarians must be prepared to shoulder, especially bearing in mind Malaysia’s international commitments as Chair of the Organisation of Islamic Conference as well as the Non-Aligned Movement.
The Cabinet at its meeting on Wednesday should rise up to the occasion and extend the two-day special sitting of Parliament on January 17 – 18 to allow a full and proper debate on the tsunami catastrophe, which should not only take precedence and priority over the Constitution Amendment Bill 2004 but also be a reference point by other Parliaments and international conferences in their debates and deliberations on the Asian tsunami catastrophe.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman