Mustafa K Anuar hopes common sense will prevail so that the Dewan Rakyat will not be further subject to indignity.
Malaysians, particularly those concerned about parliamentary democracy, who had been anxiously waiting for the belated parliamentary session amid the Covid-19 pandemic, were utterly gobsmacked and disgruntled after the second meeting of the third session of the 14th Parliament opened for business.
The house witnessed ruckus and mischievous conduct among a number of so-called Yang Berhormat, particularly when the Dewan Rakyat was debating the controversial motion to oust Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.
Moments like this make you wonder whether the chamber, where civil and informed debates are supposed to take place, was really august as claimed previously. Misdemeanours of this nature not only reflect badly on the lawmakers but also on our Parliament.
It was the saddest day for those who cherish parliamentary democracy. Snide remarks interjected the speeches of members of the opposition, while former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was heckled, as they spoke against the motion.
With the support of 111 MPs against 109 who opposed the motion, former Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun, the choice of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, was finally ordained as the Speaker.
Incidentally, such a razor-thin majority may haunt the Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional when bills are expected to be passed in the chamber in future proceedings.
Indeed, the placement of Azhar as Speaker earned the ire of opposition MPs as they felt that there was no valid reason for the former Speaker to be removed, which resonates with Ariff’s contention that “nowhere in the world is a legislative speaker removed without a clear and valid reason”.
As if the commotion in the morning was not enough, chaos emerged soon after Azhar took the exalted seat in the house. It came about when Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto asked a legitimate question why there were no women on the select committee mooted by law minister Takiyuddin Hassan.
Her question instead prompted a snide remark from Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahman, who snapped, “Too dark, I can’t see.”
This racist remark obviously didn’t go down well with certain opposition lawmakers, particularly Kasthuriraani herself, who claimed that Azeez even asked her to wear powder (presumably for visibility).
It is disturbing that the racist playbook of yesteryear is still being employed without any compunction by certain lawmakers, as if parliamentary proceedings would be incomplete without it.
The worldwide #BlackLivesMatter movement, which calls out racists and bigots, and condemns racist speech and action, seems to have flown over the heads of many of these MPs.
It is utterly shameful if one were to compare this turbulent session of the house with the ones conducted by the young organisers of the virtual parliament, Parlimen Digital, recently.
The virtual lawmakers not only came well prepared for their sessions but also conducted themselves elegantly without having to resort to racist or sexist remarks or childish behaviour to be noticed. Furthermore, they were articulate and confident, presenting well-informed suggestions consonant with the needs of contemporary Malaysia, such as measures to solve youth unemployment.
It is hoped that common sense would prevail so that the Dewan Rakyat would not be further subject to indignity.