Leadership by example


The time in Parliament is used for lawmaking to legitimise policies of the political parties in power, and not for any Member of the House to waste by asking too many long-winded questions and haggling over partisan political issues, past and present. — Bernama photo

THERE it goes again!

I thought that I would not hear of any more public complaints about the lack of ethics of some of our parliamentarians during their meetings.

I was disappointed.

The other day, when I tuned in to the broadcast of the current session of the House, I had to listen to several MPs shouting at each other and telling the Speaker what to do.

These are Honourable Members of the national legislature. It is hard to understand why these important people (VIP) behave as they do and do not realise that they are on the air, their antics heard by all and sundry; thus, giving a poor impression of the quality of our MPs as a whole.

A few bad apples spoiling the whole barrel!

Every word uttered in speeches in Parliament will be recorded in the Hansard, the official minutes of the proceedings. Unless there are corrections or deletions to the statements during each meeting within one week, the Hansard is the permanent verbatim record of Parliament.

Standing orders

New legislators must familiarise themselves with the protocol and practices governing the conduct of parliamentarians before they participate in the proceedings of the august House.

There are Standing Orders of the House – Dos and the Don’ts, which the Honourable Members have to observe all the time. For instance, Standing Order 41(e) stipulates that when one MP speaks, all the other lawmakers shall remain silent and not interfere with the member speaking in a discourteous manner.

If the lawmakers don’t observe the rules that they themselves have made, what do they expect the others, the ordinary mortals, to respect them in terms of law observance?

It’s the Speaker’s job, not any Member’s, to allow or disallow interruption for the purpose of any clarification. The Member seeking clarification must not proceed, until the Speaker nods his approval – simple courtesy between two humans.

It is most disrespectful of any Member to argue with the Speaker of the House, let alone direct him what to do. I heard some Members yelling simultaneously: “Dato Yang di-Pertua, suruh Ahli Yang Berhormat ‘A’ duduk!’.

There’s no respect for the power and the authority of the Chair at all.

Time factor

Parliament’s time is limited; it does not meet every day of the year. It is, therefore, irresponsible for any Member to waste valuable time by asking too many long-winded questions and haggling over partisan political issues, past and present.

There is time for politicking during the next election campaign ‘lah’!

Time in Parliament is used for lawmaking to legitimise policies of the political parties in power.

Sometimes, a Member of Parliament can be more effective outside the Chamber, while meeting personally with a Member who has power and authority – the relevant minister.

He gets more for his constituents out of this lobbying than he gets out of shouting in the House, playing to the gallery.

Questions for oral answers

Normally there’s time reserved for ‘Questions for Oral Answers’. That is the occasion during which all MPs, having earlier registered their questions with the Speaker’s Office, may ask questions of any minister. Sometimes ministers will give answers in writing when there is not enough time for verbal answers.

That is good enough.

And now, it is possible for the backbenchers to ask the Prime Minister questions. They do that in the House of Commons in Britain.

MPs may thrash out important issues during recess, while sipping a cup of coffee in the canteen, or while they are at the lobby of the House. That is why that space in the Parliament building is called the ‘Lobby’.

‘Small meetings’

The Deputy Speaker was reported to have complained about ‘small meetings’ held by MPs – a meeting within a meeting! That is not decorous at all.

Children in class are not allowed to talk with neighbours while the teacher is talking.

What sort of example this would be setting for young MPs?

‘The Zoo’

The patrons at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, spotting the Deputy Speaker at the same place, had told him that the Parliament was ‘like a zoo’ (The Borneo Post, Feb 17, 2023).

In Sarawak, the nearest to a zoo is the orangutan sanctuary at Matang and Semenggoh near Kuching.

The inmates are not noisy at all. If they’re not interested in the food offered by their custodians, they simply do not show up before the tourists. They may be sulking, but they hold their tongues. They are more decorous than many Homo sapiens.

In Parliament, a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel! Isn’t it time to initiate a reform in Parliament?

Be strict on enforcing discipline on the recalcitrant MPs by referring them to the Committee of Privileges, rather than merely ordering them out of the chamber.

All they have to do is turn up for the next session, and the ‘circus’ starts all over again.