Thursday, February 14, 2008

Election 2008: Highlights and controversies - NST

The 11th parliament drew up several pioneering legislation but at the same time, threw up controversies, which spilled outside the chamber and into public domain. Here are some of the major events that shaped life in the 11th parliament

1. MPs began the 11th session of parliament on May 17, 2004 with new1 leather seats, plush carpets and giant LCD screens to monitor proceedings, following the RM50 million refurbishment of parliament house.

Not only were the refurbishments meant to upgrade the 40-year-old building, they were carried out to accommodate the increased number of parliament seats from 194 to 219. But at the end of its first session, the roof leaked and it created a public furore.

2. Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) was referred to the Rights and Privileges Committee for misleading the house during the swearing-in ceremony before Speaker Tun Mohamed Zahir Ismail on May 17, 2004.

Karpal had questioned the legitimacy of the ceremony and this resulted in the disciplinary action. The committee found him guilty and Karpal was suspended without allowances and perks for six months.

3. For the first time in its 49-year history, the Dewan Negara on July 26, 2004, sent a bill back to the Dewan Rakyat to be re-tabled. In debating the Pesticides (Amendments) Bill 2004 passed by the lower house earlier, the Dewan Negara found that two words - "human beings" - had been excluded from the bill. The upper house was of the view that "human beings" should be among those protected against harmful pesticides.

Senator Datin Paduka Jaya Partiban who discovered the mistake became a celebrity of sorts and left Dewan Rakyat members red-faced.

4. After 22 years in office, Dewan Rakyat speaker Tun Mohamed Zahir Ismail died of renal failure on Oct 14, 2004. Highly respected for his cool demeanour, legal acumen and fair sense of judgment, Zahir held the distinction of being the longest-serving parliamentary speaker in Asia. Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib was appointed the new speaker. It was the first time that a sitting MP was voted into the position.

5. During the budget session on Oct 3, 2005, Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) and Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) were issued warnings by the whip for supporting an opposition motion. Both had supported a motion by Lim Kit Siang to refer International Trade and Industry Ministry secretary-general Datuk Sidek Hassan to the Rights and Privileges Committee. Both were given warnings by Chief Whip Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

6.On Nov 24, 2005, DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, brought the attention of the public to a video recording of a woman forced to do squats in the nude. The recording, which was made on a mobile phone, resulted in public outcry over the police treatment of those detained in police lock-ups.

The outcry also led to the setting up of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into police standard operating procedures on arrest and detention.

7. Citing differences in opinion, Datuk Shahrir Samad quit as Barisan Nasional Backbenchers' Club chairman on May 4, 2006, when BN MPs did not follow his lead and support an opposition motion to refer the New Straits Times to the Rights and Privileges Committee. The motion was moved by opposition leader Lim Kit Siang following an NST report on an MP who had allegedly asked the Customs and Excise Department to "close one eye" in a case involving the import of sawn timber.


- May 25, 2004: "Crazy", "Animal, not fit to sit in the House." - Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) describing Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) after the latter interrupted opposition leader Lim Kit Siang during the debate on the motion of thanks on the Royal Address.

- Oct 13, 2004: "If the minister should be sacked, then replace him." - Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) on Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu's handling of the Gua Tempurung mudslide.

- March 29, 2005: "TV1 and TV2 were fast 'asleep' while TV3 was showing an NBA basketball game. The only station which offered the breaking news was ntv7. I shudder to think what would happen if we did not have ntv7." - Dr James Dawos Mamit (BN-Mambong) expressing disappointment with local television stations which had failed to provide breaking news of the magnitude 8.7 earthquake which hit Sumatra the day before.

- July 6, 2005: "Maybe we can put all those infected with HIV/AIDS on an island and isolate them from others." - Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh (BN-Kalabakan) offering an alternative to the government's plan to distribute free syringes and condoms to stem HIV/AIDS. He was debating the Syariah Court Evidence (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005.

- Oct 4, 2005: "I am not willing to stand by and allow such fitnah against my family and me. Don't play around. If you say I am the queen, then you are the court jester. I'll sue you." - International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz telling off Lim Kit Siang (DAP- Ipoh Timur) when he questioned her about the awarding of APs (Approved Permits). Lim had earlier referred to Rafidah as the "AP Queen".

- Dec 1, 2005: "I will wonder whether the man who wanted to marry me has a hidden agenda. Does he really want to marry me or does he want the money." - Women, Family and Community Development Ministry parliamentary secretary Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun dismissing a proposal by Datuk Idris Harun (BN-Tangga Batu) that "some kind of incentive" should be given by the government to men who marry single mothers with children as they were doing a good deed.

- April 10, 2006: "RTM is always changing channel names just like it is always changing ministers and deputy ministers. So much money is spent on changing names and the image of these stations." - Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) replying to Deputy Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datok), who had pointed out that Mohamed had mentioned "TV1 and TV2" when the stations had changed their names to "RTM1 and RTM2".

- April 26, 2006: "The main reason for the large number of failed marriages is because female divorcees are gatal and are easily spotted at functions through their gatal behaviour. It is as if they have no regrets over their divorce." - Abdul Fatah Harun (Pas-Rantau Panjang) commenting on divorcees when Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was winding up her debate on the Ninth Malaysia Plan. He later withdrew the word from his remarks after being urged to do so by female and male MPs.

- May 11, 2006: "All of us have two eyes, but some see with one eye, while some don't even use their eyes. Maybe the ministry can do something concerning this and teach MPs right and wrong." - Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) to Datuk Mohd Said Yusof (BN-Jasin), referring to the incident where Mohd Said had asked the Customs and Excise Department to "close one eye" on a consignment handled by his forwarding agency.

- May 9, 2007: "What is the problem? The member of parliament for Batu Gajah also leaks once a month." - Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) and Datuk Mohd Said Yusof (BN-Jasin), equating leaks in parliament house to Fong Po Kuan's (DAP-Batu Gajah) menstrual cycle. Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang had drawn attention to the leaks when Mohd Said and Bung Mokhtar, displeased that the matter had been raised, had made the comments. They both issued brief apologies on May 14 on the insistence of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil.