(© Anouk Stricher / Dreamstime) JUST how courteous are Malaysians when speaking to one another? There’s no problem when I speak with my own friends, even if we do use a few choice words against one another every now and then.
Then again, we’re not exactly elected representatives gathered in the august halls of Parliament.
As someone who reads the Hansard, I’ve set aside media reports of what happens in the Dewan Rakyat to review some of these incidents. Three are examined here.
Karpal Singh’s “jangan main-main”
During the 23 Oct session (question 10, page 20 onwards), Karpal Singh (DAP–Bukit Gelugor) accused speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia of fooling around in his decisions. This was after Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the opposition was blind if they couldn’t see that the government’s financial sponsorship of a Bar Council dinner was merely an act of goodwill. The opposition basically called it a bribe.
Karpal, who appears to be Parliament’s self-appointed voice of the disabled, called on the speaker to ask Nazri to retract his statement because it affronted the visually impaired. He even called Nazri “kurang ajar”.
When the speaker said he didn’t find the comments insulting to the disabled, Karpal asked him to reconsider and stop fooling around.
The speaker repeated that Nazri’s comments were not an affront to the disabled, and asked that Karpal be removed from the Dewan for using the phrase “kurang ajar”, which is un-parliamentary.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim then stood up and asked that the decision be reconsidered. Anwar requested that both sides discuss issues with civility and courtesy. The speaker stood his ground and asked again that Karpal be removed from the hall.
He said “bastard”!
Certain politicians are seeing red in Parliament This next exchange (page 87 onwards) was also spun by the media. When Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (Parti Sosialis Malaysia [PSM]–Sungai Siput) was asking his question, he made mention of Hindraf. Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN–Pasir Salak) stood and asked if Devaraj supported the now-illegal organisation.
Then the bothersome M Kulasegaran (DAP–Ipoh Barat) decided to butt in, claiming that the people of Pasir Salak hated their Member of Parliament. This set off a 20-minute altercation in which Tajuddin called Kulasegaran a “bastard”.
The speaker decided to end the name-calling by asking both sides to retract their statements. Kulasegaran revised his statement, saying the Indian community “doesn’t like” Tajuddin, and Tajuddin retracted the word “bastard”, with apologies that the attack was somehow personal.
Throughout the argument, Devaraj interjected several times, asking if they could just get on with the debate instead.
Obviously, both DAP and Umno would do better to emulate the PSM parliamentarian’s conduct.
Fong Po Kuan’s fourth strike
In the recent kicking out (page 82 onwards) of Fong Po Kuan (DAP–Batu Gajah) from the Dewan, I couldn’t sympathise with her. Picture this: the speaker calls the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to wind up the session. Fong stands and reads Standing Order 35(2), and asks the speaker why he didn’t call on her previously to give her say. The speaker says he didn’t see her standing up.
Fong loses her cool and starts demanding that the speaker be fair. One, two, three, four times she demands this.
Grrr. Arrgh (© Oleh Zaporozhets / Dreamstime) The speaker, losing his cool after the fourth time, asks her to sit down. She doesn’t, and so the speaker invokes Standing Order 44(2) and orders Fong to be escorted out of the hall until the end of the day.
Chong Chieng Jen (DAP–Bandar Kuching) decides to get involved in the argument after the speaker warns him not to, and gets kicked out as well under Standing Order 44(2).
The courteous ones
In all three incidents, there is a common thread: the lack of courtesy and use of rhetoric and foul language by both the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat representatives. What exactly is the purpose of calling someone “kurang ajar” or “blind”? What is the use of saying to an elected representative that his or her own constituency hates him or her? Why lose your cool just because the speaker did not see you standing up?
Obviously, both sides are lacking in civility at this point in time, and I don’t think a courtesy programme in Parliament is going to make a change.
Personally, I find the whole courtesy thing laughable because even before I started reading the Hansards, these politicians were already cursing during their campaigns.
From my observation, the most courteous in the Dewan are people like PSM’s Devaraj, R Sivarasa (Parti Keadilan Rakyat–Subang), Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Kohilan Pillay (from Gerakan), and, I have to admit this sadly, all of the PAS MPs.
So where exactly should the rakyat learn courtesy from? Not Parliament.
Ahmad Hafidz Baharom is a paradox. He’s an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who’s a lalang, and a twentysomething yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he’s a lovable moron.