Sleeping Parliamentarians & 160B : Why?

Posted on May 3, 2007



In a comment posted, johnleemk observed :

‘I find it shocking that none of the Opposition MPs criticised this, let alone voted against it. The travesty of justice is very apparent’.

Whilst I completely agree with those observations, including that regarding Rais, I think it is absolutely important that we fully appreciate the modus adopted by the BN government in moving that Bill through Parliament.

You will recall that in the post entitled ‘Sleeping Parliamentarians : The 160B Cock-up’, I mentioned that the Act that came into force made provision to amend 9 existing Articles and 2 Schedules and to introduce 2 new Articles.

I have also mentioned 1 of the Articles that was amended. This was Article 8(2) to include in our equality Article a new prohibition against gender discrimination.    

This proposed amendment was long-awaited by many NGOs. It was hardly going to be opposed. Otherwise, BN would have gone to town and accused the Opposition of being against the government’s efforts to introduce anti-gender discriminatory laws.

Then there was the proposed amendment to Article 119. The amendment that appeared to trouble the opposition MPs the most was the provision that once the electoral register was gazetted it would be treated as conclusive, the concern being that the language is suggestive that such an electoral register could not subsequently be challenged in court. Given the stand taken by our courts of late, this concern, in my view, was justified.

A reading of the hansard report of 1st August, 2001  will readily disclose that when the Opposition MPs were allowed any real debate time to raise concerns about the proposed amendments, the one relating to Article 119 dominated their speeches. Most notable is that of Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail ( pages 24 to 29 ) and Joseph Pairin Kitingan ( pages 34 to 38 ).

Notice that I said ‘when the Opposition MPs were allowed any real debate time’. The hansard report will disclose that the Deputy Speaker first allotted 20 minutes to each speaker. This was subsequently cut down to 10 minutes each. Note also how when an Opposition MP was given the floor, there would be incessant interruptions by BN MPs asking to be given leave to intervene. The end result is little time to debate a Bill to amend the Constitution.

If you take account also that the Bill would invariably have been marked ‘Rahsia’ before it was tabled in Parliament to prevent it being ‘leaked’ out to citizens before it is tabled, and couple this with the way the 3 readings and Committee stage were rushed over 3 days  so that there was little prospect of MPs taking the contents out to confer with their constituencies or NGO pressure groups, and the fact that BN MPs will invariably tow party-lines when the bell to call to vote is rung, it would appear that we, the citizens, were doomed to have this Bill stuffed down our throats.

This is the modus adopted by the BN government.

Why none of the Opposition MPs criticised or voted against it? This is a pertinent question that can only be answered by those same MPs.

What I urge you to take note of is that every MP, by his oath of office, swore to defend and preserve the Federal Constitution. In the manner that this Bill was passed, concealing the same from our prior scrutiny by the use of the OSA and then bulldozing the Bill through the constitutional processes, did not the executive of the day perpetrate a fraud on the people and the honourable Members of Parliament breach the trust reposed in them by us, the voters?