Parliamentary Debate

Read these first:-

Members of Parliament are seen attending a session of Parliament in the House of Commons, called to discuss the Syria crisis, in this still image taken from video, in London

(Certainly not THE place for any funny business. The House of Commons in session and in a good mood for a debate over David Cameron’s motion on Syria. Although not all the MPs had the opportunity to speak their mind on the motion, whoever did managed, left a positive impression on the viewers. Image source: the Net)

In case you have been too busy to worry yourself with the latest on global news and the state of international response over Syria’s purported use of chemical weapon (yes, the same old “weapon of mass destruction” tone that left Iraq in a bloody mess to this day), here’s a snippet of what had happened recently in the UK Parliament:-

The British parliament yesterday rejected a motion supporting military action in Syria, reflecting deep divisions about using force to punish President Bashar al-Assad for what Western governments believe was his use of chemical weapons against civilians. The British parliament’s rejection of the largely symbolic motion proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, which would have given authorization in principle for action subject to a second vote, was a setback for Obama’s efforts to build a coalition for action.

Cameron said afterward he would not override the will of parliament and approve such action, saying it was clear that parliament did not want to see a military strike on Syria to punish it for chemical weapons use and that he would act accordingly. The United States and its allies have “no smoking gun” proving Assad personally ordered the attack on a rebel-held Damascus neighborhood in which hundreds of people were killed, US national security officials said.

In secret intelligence assessments and a still-unreleased report summarizing US intelligence on the alleged gas attack on Aug 21, US agencies expressed high confidence that Syrian government forces carried out the attack, and that Assad’s government therefore bears responsibility, US national security officials said. Syria denies blame for the gas attacks and says they were perpetrated by rebels. Washington and its allies say the denial is not credible.

An extended parliamentary debate in London revealed deep misgivings stemming from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After pressure from lawmakers, the British government – a key player in any proposed air assault on Syria – had promised parliament that even if it voted in favour, there would be a second decisive vote once the UN weapons inspectors report their findings.

Even that motion was defeated by 285 to 272 votes.

(Source)

Over past couple of days, the Western world seems to be on the verge of deciding to take military action on Syria (they calling it the “regime” now) and shown over and over again on the news, it had started to get a bit boring. Then I saw the debate of the motion by PM David Cameron a couple nights ago, shown live over CNN and it was simply brilliant.

ibrahim-ali-sleeping

(Live telecast of the parliament proceedings can indeed bring out some of the dumbest, self-centred and morally corrupted clowns in the open and allow the voters to see for themselves on how these clowns waste their time sleeping in Parliament. We need more quality politicians in the Parliament if we want to move the nation in the right direction. Image source: the Net)

Don’t get me wrong – I am sure that the debate skill and knowledge level of our own Members of Parliament are on par as any intelligent and skilful Members of Parliament out there (and surely that includes the UK MPs). But the problem is we don’t see this live and in complete on a regular basis. Nowadays, the only time you can watch the MPs “in action” is during the snippets during the news where the shot is edited (often to show the bad side of the oppositions) and heavily one sided. The other time would be during the presentation of the national budget by the Prime Minister although this is almost a one way argument.

Still remember the call to telecast live the parliament in session and to allow the voters to see what is being discussed and argued by their elected Member of Parliament? After a “promising” start to allow the live telecast, the idea was then shot down and the excuse that was given was that the viewers are “not matured” enough to watch the parliament in session:-

The first full day Parliament sat was fraught with controversy. Karpal Singh of the DAP delayed proceedings by protesting that several MPs had not been validly sworn in because they had not raised their right hands, a claim the Speaker rejected. Karpal subsequently exchanged heated words with Bung Mokhtar Radin, calling him “big foot”, with Bung retorting that he was a “big monkey”.

During question time, the Speaker gave one question for the Prime Minister to Razali Ibrahim and refused to permit supplementary follow-up questions, a decision Lim Kit Siang denounced as “making a mockery” of the House, branding it as part of “a conspiracy to silent the opposition MPs”. After the Prime Minister personally intervened, the Speaker permitted Abdul Hadi Awang of PAS to ask one follow-up question. Azmin Ali of PKR also protested the Speaker’s allocation of questions, arguing that as Leader of the Opposition, Wan Azizah had the right to first ask the Prime Minister a question, and that BN backbenchers received a disproportionate number of questions.

The controversial debate led Information Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek to suggest that the government would review live broadcasts of the first 30 minutes of question time because “it was misused to seek cheap publicity and raise trivial matters”. He later said that he would propose to the Cabinet that plans to broadcast future question times be shelved. In response, Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi said it was too early to make a firm decision about the future of live broadcasts: “I feel the government should determine if this is a first-day phenomenon or if it will continue.” Prime Minister Abdullah also called for the cancellation of the live broadcasts, but the Cabinet decided to continue them for the time being.

(Source)

Perhaps it was the right to do – the need to protect the matured viewers from the immature clowns sailing on trivial issue in the Parliament is probably justified.

But somehow seeing the UK MPs in action brought back the dreaded question of why we can’t see that same flair and intelligence that was demonstrated by the MPs in UK when debating on Cameron’s motion on Syria with our own MPs here. How we can assess this when the debate of motions in our Parliament is not telecast live and it’s troublesome to read the Hansard? Don’t we have the right to see our elected ones in action and ensure that they don’t use the opportunity to sleep in the Parliament and making a fool of themselves? After all, decisions and motions that they make in Parliament affects us all.

According to Klang MP (DAP) Charles Santiago, citizens had a right to know what the people who they voted for were doing in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Parliament should be televised. It is the house of the people, and we are the people’s representatives. We come here with a mandate from the people, and we’ve taken an oath to represent interests of the country. What we do here has every bit of a link and (can result in) ramifications to the world outside, so they (Malaysians) have to know,” he told FMT.

Santiago claimed that if MPs knew they were being watched live on the air, they would be pressured to “get their act together”.

(Source)

To be realistic, it may be a long way to go before this can be done effectively. We need to start with the right quality of politicians (from BN, PR and others) who knows the subject matter well and knows what to debate (of course the Government being frank with the information would be a big factor here). And one good way to judge them on this would be see how they question and answer in the Parliament (how they work and response to their constituent would be another). Are they asking the right questions? Are they wasting the precious time on trivial issues? Are they trying to avoid answering questions that has been put forward? Does direction of their political parties drive their decisions in the Parliament and jeopardize the valid motions raised by fellow MP just because they are from the opposition? Do they sleep in the Parliament far too often?

A regular telecast of the Parliamentary debate is necessary in a matured and democratic society. It would be good if they can start with the debate of important motions that affects the nation such as introduction of new and controversial laws. Then the voters can see what the MPs had argued for and against the motion before the proposals become the law. It’s important to see whether the MPs who had argued for the law to be approved have done so because there were real merits in the new law and not because they were forced to toe the line of their political parties.

In the case of David Cameron’s motion in the UK Parliament, there were indeed merits to strike Syria militarily (David Cameron’s passionate plea to send the right message to President Al Assad before more deaths from the use of chemical weapons and the right of the international society to play it’s role was very valid) but the arguments put forward by the MPs who had rejected the motion made more sense too (MPs asked why there is a motion for military action when the UN inspectors have not completed their investigations). And learning the hard mistakes with Iraq, the motion was rightfully defeated. Having said that, there was a fair share of the telecast show time for the MPs from the opposition.

One could only dread the shock if that has happened in Malaysia where Anwar Ibrahim has almost equal air-time as Najib. Moving forward, who knows, with a greater scrutiny on the Parliament proceedings, perhaps the quality of politicians in this country may just improve. After all, we do have some of the dumbest, self-centred and morally corrupted politicians in the country wasting everyone’s time and taking the nation on the wrong side of the road. Bringing them in the open on a more regular basis and forcing them to change their ways would be most sensible thing to do.

Happy Independence Day, Malaysia…

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