Monday, June 30, 2008

Opposition MPs walk out of Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR (June 30, 2008): Husna Yusop and Giam Say Khoon at the Dewan Rakyat today

Opposition MPs staged a walk-out after a 30-minute argument over the Speaker's decision to allow Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak make a "ministerial speech" to elaborate on the 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP) mid-term review (MTR).

At the start of debate time in Parliament today, the House was told that the government was making a statement and Najib stood up and said he wanted to elaborate on the motion tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday (June 26), specifically on the government's strategy to restructure the society.

Before he could proceed, Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) asked whether Najib was taking part in the debate or making a statement as it is "unusual" for such a statement to be made.

Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia then explained Najib was only making "an additional explanation to the facts made in the speech of the Prime Minister" and it was not against parliament order.

Mahfuz Omar (PAS-Pokok Sena) then asked does this mean Abdullah was not fully prepared when delivering his speech, saying: "This means the Prime Minister was not able to give a clear explanation. He should be prepared with his facts and everything. Why take from our time to debate now?"

Pandikar Amin said it was not for the MPs to debate whether Abdullah was prepared or not but for him to decide whether Najib's speech violates the Standing Order or not and he had decided it was not.

Lim stood up again saying: "This is unusual and unparliamentary. He (Najib) had missed the opportunity to argue his points when seconding the Prime Minister’s speech, so now he wants to compensate for it."

Pandikar Amin disagreed and quoted a point in the order which says Speaker’s decision is final but Lim quickly said the Speaker should not simply use the order to justify all his decisions because parliamentary practices must also be observed.

The Speaker said if Lim was not satisfied with his decision he can bring the matter up as a motion but Lim said it would be meaningless if the Speaker later decides not to accept the motion to be debated.

The exchange continued with Pandikar Amin insisting that his decision is final and saying Lim can bring a motion if he is not satisfied with the latter asking for a guarantee that his motion would be accepted by the House later.

Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian), Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (PAS-Kuala Selangor) also stood up a few times to support of Lim.

Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) then raised a point of order, saying according to the House of Common Practice, a ministerial statement can only be made to correct an error in a statement made in the House.

"So, where was the error in the Prime Minister’s speech. He should clarify it, not another minister," he added.

Pandikar Amin disagreed with him, saying it was a matter of interpretation and he also had studied all relevant parliament laws and according to his interpretation, the ministerial statement by Najib was proper and according to order.

When Karpal and Lim tried to argue further, the Speaker started on his lecture, saying: "I shall not jeopardise the authority given to this chair. I really wish to create a world-class parliament here. Please listen to the Speaker.

"In the House of Common, as soon as the Speaker raised from his seat, everyone kept quiet. But here, if I were to interject too much, I will be criticised. I do my job to my utmost. Please."

He then asked Najib to continue but Lim was still not satisfied and tried to interrupt the speech but when it was not entertained by the Speaker and Najib, he said he wanted to leave the House and all other opposition MPs followed suit.

Najib then continued with his speech, saying: "Thank you. It is much easier without the Opposition in the House."

In the lobby, Lim said all Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs had walked out because what happened did not adhere to the Standing Order.

"This is unacceptable, unparliamentary and we will table a substantive motion to re-study the decision of the Speaker and also the decision to suspend Gobind Singh (DAP-Puchong) for two days," he said

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