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1:28pm 27/07/2022
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Here’s why the Malaysian parliament should be disbanded
By:Mariam Mokhtar

Most Malaysians will probably agree that we can obtain more information about Malaysia and engage in many constructive discussions about the state of the nation at a kedai kopi (coffee shop) than in the Malaysian parliament.

On 18 July, Speaker Azhar Harun rejected a motion by Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, the Warisan MP of Kota Belud, to debate the seizure of Petronas’ assets by the descendants of the last Sultan of Sulu.

His refusal was met with anger and derision by several MPs.

Isnaraissah tried repeatedly to convince Azhar of the urgency of the issue as it involved national sovereignty, but the Speaker dismissed her concerns.

The determined Isnariassah, who only wanted a confirmed date for the debate, was punished for her efforts.

When Azhar failed to control the angry MPs, chaos erupted in parliament, and Azhar, unable to handle the heat and restore order in the Dewan, simply slunk away and fled.

Instead of upholding democracy, Azhar simply abrogated his responsibility as Speaker. His deputy, Rashid Hasnon, is no better.

Bailiffs were told to remove Isnariassah from the Dewan, but this only increased the ire of the MPs.

Some of us will probably ask, “What is the point of Dewan Rakyat when debates are not allowed, matters of national importance are ignored, and to make matters worse, Tuesday’s events have shown that the Speaker and his deputy are afraid of foul-mouthed MPs and refuse to punish them.”

One person said, “Disband parliament. I get more satisfaction from my kedai kopi interactions on Malaysian issues than the mud-slinging, sexist banter and shouting in the circus which calls itself the Malaysian parliament. The Speaker and his deputy are useless.”

Perhaps we should examine Azhar and his deputy’s relationship with upholding democracy and the sanctity of parliament.

Many people know Azhar as a man who betrayed the rakyat, whose appointment by the “backdoor government” in the Sheraton Move was mired in controversy.

He has a destructive combination of incompetence and arrogance, and does not hide his preferential treatment towards members of the ruling party.

Many people also ask, “Is Azhar a man for himself, or a man for the rakyat?”

When Azhar cited subjudice rules for blocking the debate, MP Ramkarpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor) accused him of conflict of interest.

Azhar denied that he discussed his work with his brother Idrus, the Attorney General who is involved in the Petronas matter.

Many people will remember Batu Puteh, an island just off the Johor coastline. However, because of our complacency, the government managed to “lose” these tiny clumps of rocks to Singapore.

Will Azhar wait till Sabah’s sovereignty is at risk before debating the Sulu issue?

Many MPs from Semenanjung fail to take this matter seriously. For the Sabahans, the Sulu threat is right on their doorstep!

Putrajaya does what it is good at, which is to be ultra complacent and ignore all issues until such a time they are forced to act. They probably thought the problem would go away.

Instead of a debate in the Dewan, MPs were invited to a closed-door briefing in a hotel. This is not democracy!

We elect MPs so that the rakyat can have a say in parliament. A hotel room is not parliament. If the rakyat want matters of public interest discussed, this should be done in the Dewan.

Will the hotel discussion be recorded in the Hansard transcripts? Parliament has become too sloppy!

If a hotel room is where MPs discuss important issues of public interest, why should we bother with parliament and pay for its upkeep?

Let’s dispense with the tradition, rigmarole, solemnity and protocol. Just arrange meetings in hotels.

Perhaps the land on which parliament is sited can be sold to build another shopping mall, or the rooms can be converted to apartments. Proceeds from the sale can be used to top up our depleted treasury.

Azhar also claimed that it was his responsibility not to expose the government’s legal strategies.

What he probably did not want us to know is that the government does not have a strategy in place.

Putrajaya was caught with their pants down. They did not take the Sulu claim seriously last March, and were probably shocked to find that in July, the Sulus had made good on their threat. Equally stumped, the Petronas website could only manage four short sentences about the asset seizure.

It is obvious that the Speaker is being defensive and protecting either the AG or the PM, or both, and a debate would have exposed how ill-prepared Putrajaya has been.

The seeds of the Sulu discontent started during the convicted felon, Najib Abdul Razak’s tenure. Furious at the 2013 Sulu incursion in Lahad Datu, he reneged on the annual payment of RM5,300 to the Sulu sultanate.

The two events – the 144-year-old historic agreement and the incursion – are not connected, but when the Malaysian military was caught sleeping on the job in 2013, an embarrassed Najib thought he could have the last laugh.

Withholding payment was one way to show his power and might. As we now know, this was an unwise move.

In March 2022, descendants of the Sulu Sultanate secured a RM63 billion (US$14.92 billion) arbitration award from Malaysia, but Putrajaya dismissed the Sulu claim and refused to participate in the arbitration process in France.

They said the dispute between Malaysia and the claimants was not a commercial contract and thus not subject to arbitration.

Putrajaya does what it is good at, which is to be ultra complacent and ignore all issues until such a time they are forced to act. They probably thought the problem would go away.

They must have been caught by surprise when in July, the Sulu claimants used the international courts to successfully seize two Petronas subsidiaries in Luxembourg. Putrajaya had seriously underestimated the Sulu resolve!

For starters, the Sulus have seized US$2 billion worth of assets, Manila has now reignited the “Sabah belongs to the Philippines” rhetoric, and poor Azhar can’t even handle question time in parliament!

As Azhar and Rashid did not uphold our democracy and failed to see the importance of the Sulu issue. they should resign or be sacked!

Sources:

  1. Malaysiakini: Report: Sulu sultanate heirs seize Petronas assets worth US$2b
  2. Malaysiakini: Warisan MPs unhappy with hotel briefing on Sulu claims

 

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)

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Sabah
Mariam Mokhtar
Dewan Rakyat
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