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Shameful behaviour in Perak

LIKE the 7 May 2009 sitting, proceedings in the Perak legislative assembly today, 28 Oct 2009, were again a showcase of unparliamentary behaviour and the state of political affairs at their worst.

The Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s challenging of the forced seizure of its state government in February 2009 through defections and desertions is still morally legitimate today, even if interpretation of the law deems the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s coup legal. But disappointment is beginning to set in with the loose tongues and invectives being hurled about in the House.

In today’s sitting, PR assemblypersons behaved boorishly by indulging in name-calling and sexist remarks. Today, reporters inside the House tweeted that PR assemblypersons called the BN’s Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir “lanun” or “pirate”, and told BN-installed Speaker Datuk R Ganesan to wear a saree. What’s with the reference to female attire? Doesn’t calling Ganesan “speaker haram” and then equating him to a woman demonstrate that PR reps think a woman is unfit to be speaker?

Sure, the PR are the underdogs, and what else can we expect them to do but bite back? But can boorish behaviour ever be acceptable even if the cause fought for is justified? Surely parliamentary behaviour must be expected of leaders elected into public office.

Complex battle

Nobody doubts that it’s a complex battle for the PR to fight in Perak. But by now, some degree of public fatigue with the theatrics has settled in. And the use of sexist remarks and unparliamentary behaviour today does nothing to help the PR retain public support. In the meantime, at the national level, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak‘s government is already on a high-gear charm offensive to win back trust.

BN assemblypersons today could afford the appearance of decorum because they controlled the House. Might does not make anyone right, but precisely because it had might and is aided by subservient public institutions such as the police and a pliable judiciary, the BN in Perak is where it is today.

The PR’s Speaker Sivakumar (right) and Menteri Besar Datuk
Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin (Pic courtesy of Merdeka
Still, that didn’t stop the shouting and heckling from both sides when the BN and the PR each conducted their own assembly sittings separately but simultaneously in the same hall. Boos and jeers erupted whenever a member from either side stood up to speak.

As farcical as it is, both sides are obsessed with giving themselves the appearance of legitimacy, even if it means behaving like rowdy schoolchildren. And predictably, both sides will blame the other for thuggish behaviour, pointing fingers and crying, “You started it first!”

By resorting to name-calling, and rude or sexist language, elected representatives only serve to harm their own image. It tells of an inability to articulate thoughts reasonably. It speaks of a loss of self-control and of giving in to emotions. It points to a deeper absence of gender and human respect. It makes politics personal when there is more at stake.

No different

Today’s circus in the Perak state assembly demonstrate how elected representatives on both sides of the divide are not that different. Remember when BN Members of Parliament (MPs) Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and Datuk Mohd Said Yusof likened a leak in the Parliament roof to the menstrual cycle of DAP MP Fong Po Kuan?

The same expectations of parliamentary behaviour should also apply to Perak’s PR representatives. Their resilience is applauded, but they must fight with the stature of real leaders, and not as schoolyard heroes with locker-room jokes.

PR Teja assemblyperson Chang Lih Kang, however, feels that their representatives were more decorous today compared to 7 May. Tensions were higher in the May sitting because of the physical threat to Sivakumar, who was eventually roughed up and forcibly removed from his chair by plainclothes police officers, who then detained him illegally until Ganesan could usurp the speaker’s chair.

Sivakumar being dragged out of the House in May (Pic courtesy of Sinar Harian)

“This time, I believe we were very decorous. We just wanted to make our point that we reject Ganesan as the speaker. We didn’t make any physical contact with the BN representatives and only had verbal exchanges,” Chang tells The Nut Graph.

“I do understand that the public are fed up, but we have to be consistent. To concede would be politically wrong,” he adds.

Yet, by having two separate assemblies under the roof of one august House to table and debate a different set of agendas, both the BN and the PR have trivialised the state legislature’s sanctity.

Civil society watchdog Aliran put it succinctly when it said that “anarchy reigns supreme in the Perak assembly. Law and order have completely broken down.”

“What we are witnessing today is a farce that has brought down the dignity of the state assembly,” it continued in a press statement today after the assembly sitting was adjourned.

But for as long as the BN uses its might and government machinery to prevent fresh state elections, Perak PR assemblypersons see little choice but to remain a pest to keep their cause alive. And for as long as BN continues to disregard public opinion on the need for fresh elections, the rest of the term in the Perak assembly will be a guaranteed circus.

The Perak assembly is now stuck in a vicious cycle of provocation by the BN and reaction by the PR. If the PR believes that the majority of the people are on their side and against the BN coup, let’s hope that their assemblypersons can avoid schoolyard heckling and find ways to defend their ground with dignity.

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16 Responses to “Shameful behaviour in Perak”

  1. davis says:

    Telling Ganesan to wear a saree has nothing to do with the fair sex. He is not gentleman enough to vacate the chair and yet not lady enough to grace the august House […]

  2. meena lakshana says:

    I guess this is why some political scientists refer the Malaysia as an “Asian democracy”. Just when we thought 8 May was a great step forward, the behaviour of the Pakatan Rakyat members quashed that revelation.

  3. If Chang Lih Kang thinks it is necessary to keep heckling BN speakers to remain consistent with her political beliefs, may I suggest elevating the quality of dissent? Non-violent direct action would be an excellent way to show solidarity against BN.

  4. Azizi Khan says:

    This story just proves one point : Intelligence and politics are a world apart.

    We want these type of individuals to run the country? The PR is so obsessed with winning the battle in Perak, they are going to lose the war of the next general election.

    But you know what, it will not matter. They will still carry on blaming the voters and everyone else except themselves.

  5. jj says:

    “If the PR believes that the majority of the people are on their side and against the BN coup, let’s hope that their assemblypersons can avoid schoolyard heckling and find ways to defend their ground with dignity.”

    I respect your view in the article. You write so much about the PR changing their ways to engage the BN and machineries. But you didn’t give any constructive comments, such as how? In what way?

  6. A.Subramaniam says:

    Dear Deborah,

    Asking the “haram” Speaker Ganesan to wear a saree, is by no yardstick, a sexist remark. Nor does it compare in any way to the “bocor” remark in Parliament as stated.

    Among Indians, when you ask a man to wear a saree, it is intended to be THE ultimate insult of sorts. I strongly believe that it is in this context that Ganesan was told to go and wear a saree. Understand, too that the comment came after Ganesan’s own remarks and police reports related to the “real” Speaker Sivakumar, keeping the Speaker’s’ robe. I think we need to see things in context. The situation in Perak will never get back to normal as long as the BN government refuses to go back to the people for a mandate.There will never be any harmony in the Perak state assembly as long as the police are used as oppressive instruments of state against the PR reps and the people of the Silver State.The anger will never go away, no matter how much of a charm offensive the BN government and “lanun” Zambry put on.The needless death of the three children, has only served to fuel the anger against the corrupt regime at both the state and federal levels.

  7. The circus in the Perak assembly, the antics of the police, the pomp attached to the speaker with mighty forces to protect him, and the uncouth behaviour of everyone around must have circled the globe enough times by now.

    How sad the royalty must be when they are also dragged into the fray, [with] allegations made by Malaysia Today that the royalty had been garnished with numerous land parcels by the present BN group. All this will make foreigners laugh at the way we run the country. Can we really proudly call ourselves a developed nation?

  8. Merah Silu says:

    I do not have any sympathy to this funny ex-speaker Sivakumar. He was the root of the problem in Perak. If he was fair and let the House decide fairly based on the majority, the problem will not have happened. I am very fed up with the suggestion to get a fresh mandate. If you do not have the majority, let those with the majority form their government. In this case the BN is the right party to form the government. […]

  9. A.Subramaniam,

    “Telling an Indian man to wear a saree is not sexist, and yet it is the most insulting thing you could say to him.”

    Please explain what is so deeply insulting about the remark.

  10. shivasaktiom says:

    Whats so insulting abt telling a MAN to wear a SAREE? Well , in India, men wear vestis and sarees are worn by LADIES.

    When a man is told to wear a saree, it’s like telling him that he is [emasculated and effeminate].

    It is in no way a sexist remark but condemnation of the worst against [an emasculated man]. […]

  11. Remarkably you have missed the forest for the trees . This apparent circus is not about overpaid kids in coats but longer term political strategy . You have strangly missed that or is there something else of substance you are not privy to or perhaps another it’s my job lah, wannabe […]?

  12. kazakh47 says:

    You can only blame one person for this fiasco – the Sultan.


    When you have a circus as a town
    You can expect a field day for clowns
    With their laughter and sorrows to drown
    But don’t overdo all that to cause others to frown

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 301009
    Fri. 30th Oct. 2009.

  14. abby says:

    A. Subramaniam

    You start by saying that asking the speaker to wear a saree is not sexist, but two lines later you contradict yourself and say it is “the ultimate insult”. Asking the speaker to wear a saree was said to delegitimise and undermine Ganesan by implying he was less than a man i.e. a woman, i.e. being a woman is “the ultimate insult”. How is that NOT sexist, in ANY context?

  15. wong pui yen says:

    Shame of BN.

  16. Sivakumar says:

    I think it is strategic for PR to keep this up so that the farce that the Perak State Assembly is and its inability to function becomes so blatant in the minds of everyone that it cannot be tolerated anymore, and that the legitimate key to breaking the deadlock — fresh elections — will be inevitable.

    So this is indeed a form of civil disobedience that PR is practicing and I do not believe it is a bad thing. They are being non-violent to begin with and we must respect that.

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