Top 10 events in Parliament in 2019

Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman asks Jelutong MP RSN Rayer in Parliament if the holy ashes on his forehead are those of communist leader Chin Peng.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian parliament has had quite a significant year, making at least two dramatic decisions. It repealed the law against fake news and lowered the voting age to 18.

But for our list of the top 10 events in 2019, we have included a couple of offbeat happenings and started off with an instance of atrocious behaviour.

1. Noh Omar drops the P-word

In November, Barisan Nasional MP Noh Omar uttered the obscene Malay expression that refers to a mother’s vagina during a debate on a social media posting criticising the sultan of Selangor.

The insult was directed at RSN Rayer of Pakatan Harapan, who had called him stupid.

But Noh claimed on the following day that he was unaware he had uttered the expletive.

2. Lower voting age and automatic voter registration

In July, the Dewan Rakyat unanimously passed a bill to amend the Federal Constitution and allow 18-year-olds to vote and stand as candidates in elections.

Malaysians who are 18 years old and above can be automatically registered as voters. However, Election Commission chairman Azhar Harun said this could not be implemented until necessary adjustments to the law are made. He expects automatic registration to be possible only in the middle of 2021.

3. Government fails to amend constitution

In April, the government failed to get the two-third majority needed for the Federal Constitution to be amended to enable the restoration of the status of Sabah and Sarawak as partners equal to Peninsular Malaysia in the Malaysian Federation.

MPs from Sarawak said they abstained from voting because the amendment bill made no mention of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.

4. Anti-Fake News Act repealed

The law against fake news was finally repealed in December following the Dewan Negara’s approval of Pakatan Harapan’s second attempt to achieve the abolition.

The senate rejected the bill last year after the Dewan Rakyat had passed it in August 2018. It was tabled again in October after the required cooling-off period of one year. The second time around, 92 MPs voted for the bill and 51 voted against it.

5. IPCMC put on hold

The long-awaited debate on the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission 2019 (IPCMC) Bill was postponed in December to the next session in March 2020.

This was the second time the bill was put on hold at the Dewan Rakyat. “We win,” members of the opposition shouted when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong announced the postponement.

Opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob voiced his hope for a complete withdrawal of the bill.

6. Chin Peng’s ashes linked to Hindu holy ash

In December, BN MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman was suspended from the Dewan Rakyat for two days after linking the holy ash worn by RSN Rayer on his forehead to the ashes of communist leader Chin Peng.

Two weeks before that, the Pasir Salak MP caused a stir at the Parliament lobby after trading barbs with his BN colleague Ismail Mohamed Said. Shouts of “stupid” rang out through the corridors.

7. Fainting MPs

The debate on the 2020 budget was abruptly halted in October after Nibong Tebal MP Mansor Othman collapsed while speaking. He had been slurring in his speech. Several MPs rushed to his aid and it was Subang MP Wong Cheng who broke his fall.

In November, proceedings were halted again after Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Eddin Syazlee Syah fainted during a question-and-answer session.

8. Declaration of assets

One hundred and sixty of the 222 MPs had declared their assets to the Dewan Rakyat speaker at the passing of the deadline which ended on Dec 5. Only 22 of the 84 opposition MPs had done so.

Opposition leaders gave various reasons for not declaring their assets. PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said he did not believe the motion followed the law and added that sincerity was more important.

9. Defence white paper tabled

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu tabled the country’s first-ever defence white paper to chart Malaysia’s defence plans for the next 10 years. Mohamad cited increasing terrorist threats, the tension in South China Sea, cybersecurity attacks and a rise in human and drug trafficking as key reasons for the tabling.

10. Lack of quorum at Dewan Rakyat

Dewan Rakyat proceedings were halted twice this year due to a lack of quorum, sparking criticism of the administration by opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Pakatan Harapan’s Wong Chen, who said the government needed to buck up.

The prime minister issued a warning to those Pakatan Harapan members who had been playing truant.