Thanks to its MPs, Malaysia's Parliament is comparable to that of third world countries, says Wan Junaidi.
Rather than being the centre of debate over the country’s policies and issues, its hallowed halls seem to be plagued with unbecoming behaviour.
Open yelling, playing politics and ganging up on each other were some of the actions which the deputy speaker said were part of a culture that Malaysian MPs were developing.
It is a culture that Wan Junaidi said, affected both sides of the political divide.
“Unfortunately, we play politics in the Dewan Rakyat… The moment you talk about politics [here], you are bringing the Dewan into a political arena,” he told FMT in an interview at his office.
“If we play politics, then you lose the quality, because when you talk about quality, you are talking about the quality substantive to the issues before you, not about politics.”
Playing political games led Wan Junaidi to compare Malaysia’s Parliament to “third world countries” such as Bangladesh and Taiwan.
MPs, he said, should focus on laws and policies as well as criticising the government in order to improve the country.
However, this did not seem to be the case. Instead, name-calling, rambling and walk-outs were the order of the day.
In a speech today, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kohilan Pillay referred to PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Tantawi as “PAS Youth chief in Mecca [Saudi Arabia].”
Shah Alam MP (PAS) Khalid Samad then attacked Kohilan for his error, which led to bickering over the next two minutes.
Once, Ipoh Barat MP (DAP) M Kulasegaran raised the topic of the coming general election to Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong when the latter was talking about upgrading Tamil schools.
In 2008, Kinabatangan MP (Umno) Bung Mokhtar Radin called Bukit Gelugor MP (DAP) Karpal Singh a “big monkey” after the latter called him a “bigfoot”.
Everybody starts shouting
Many MPs were also known for rambling at length before eventually asking their questions.
One such example was Sri Gading MP (Umno) Mohamad Aziz, who was well-known for injecting background into an issue before coming up with a final query.
On this, Wan Junaidi said these MPs were more interested in showing off than asking queries.
“…It’s about showing off how good they are, telling people how well they know [what they're talking about].
“Questions like that are making the assumption that the minister they’re asking don’t know their background, because you have to spell it out to them.”
“Instead of asking straightaway, he [a MP] starts [talking about] the background to show how good he is. It is not! A well-informed MP is one who asks direct, single and complete questions,” he said.
He also criticised the answers given by some of the ministers and wondered why some of them had to read out “the whole policy of the government” in their replies.
But more often than not, the deputy speaker found it difficult to control MPs.
“[I'm] very sorry to say, [that if] you look at people like Shah Alam (MP Khalid Samad), like Kinabatangan (MP Bung Mokhtar Radin), Sri Gading (MP Mohamad Aziz), can you tell them off?”
Wan Junaidi said that a Speaker (or deputy) risked losing his dignity if he argued with noisy MPs.
“So the result of that development [will make the] others think, ‘If the three of them can do it, I can do it also.
“…now you have people ganging up. [When] one person starts shouting, everybody starts shouting, [even though they] don’t know what they’re shouting about.”
“People like Lenggong (MP Shamsul Anuar Nasarah) for instance. He’s a fine, young man, but he behaves… starts shouting and yelling into the microphone while sitting down,” he said.
The West has respect
He said that Western democracies, unlike Malaysia, seemed to have a modicum of respect for their respective Speakers.
“I have attended Parliaments in Athens, Macedonia, Australia, New Zealand… the House of Commons in England…seen [the US] Congress in session.”
“The moment the Speaker stands up, everybody will sit down. It doesn’t matter who, the Prime Minister (of Britain) sits down the moment (his) Speaker stands up.”
“…So we are the people who don’t know [how to behave]…We cannot understand or appreciate freedom,” he said.