pic by BERNAMA
AS EXPECTED, yesterday’s Dewan Rakyat session was a heated one with MPs’ debate in full force on several motions lined up for the day.
Mohamad Ariff’s Last Opening Speech
Opening the Third Session’s Second Meeting of the 14th Parliament, former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof announced PKR head Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the new Opposition leader.
“I am satisfied that Anwar has the support of the Opposition members to be appointed as their leader,” he said.
He then tabled a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for the current parliamentary sitting to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“We have to go through this new normal to curb the pandemic, including practising social distancing, especially when we have 87 MPs aged 60 and above who are at higher risk,” Mohamad Ariff said.
New Seating Arrangements
The new SOP saw only 174 MPs seated at the main area of the Dewan Rakyat, while the backbenchers were seated at the officers’ sitting area to ensure social distancing.
Independent MPs were seated at the public gallery, while the Opposition filled the seats at the officers’ sitting area on the left side of the Speaker.
Mohamad Ariff also assured that those not seated at the main area could use the microphones prepared for them besides going to the arranged area for questions or debates.
The frontbenchers of the government side were filled by the usual faces including Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin alongside his Senior Ministers Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, among others.
Meanwhile, the Opposition frontbenchers were filled by Anwar, Mohamad Sabu (Parti Amanah Negara-Kota Raja), Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR-Pandan), among others.
From a Fierce Debate to an Uproar
Drama was aplenty yesterday, but one would not have expected it would end abruptly due to a ruckus brought about by a remark from Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (Umno-Baling) Kasthuri Patto (DAP-Batu Kawan) raised her concern that the new list for the replacement of the Parliament’s Select Committee members did not comprise any female names, thus questioning if the government had any woman representative of calibre.
In response, Abdul Azeez made an allegedly racist remark: “It’s dark, I can’t see.”
When asked to withdraw his comment, he said: “I too am dark, apply powder, problem solved.”
The comments led to a shouting match which then made the de facto Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan to abruptly end the sitting.
Amid all of that, new Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun calmly agreed to postpone yesterday’s sitting to 10am today.
Shortly before that, Azhar sent out Khalid Abdul Samad (Parti Amanah Negara-Shah Alam) for interrupting his speech upon his first entrance as the Speaker.
The shouting matches went on for hours, following a debate over motions to appoint Azhar following the removal of Mohamad Ariff.
1MDB Questions Rejected
Tony Pua Kiam Wee (DAP-Damansara) in a statement shared that the Dewan Rakyat speaker’s office had rejected two questions posed to Muhyiddin regarding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
The office had written to Pua yesterday to inform him that both questions were rejected as he could not solicit an opinion, based on Standing Order 23(1)(h).
“In the first question, I asked the PM to state the stand of the attorney general on the ongoing 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption case against Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.
“We want to hear the PM iterate his commitment to punish those guilty of misappropriating tens of billions of ringgit from the government and 1MDB,” he said.
Another of Pua’s questions, regarding the government’s position on the six Perikatan Nasional MPs charged for graft, was also rejected.
New Normal for All
All media personnel covering a Dewan Rakyat sitting are also required to comply with the strict new SOPs.
Each media company is only allowed to send a reporter and a photographer to cover the session, as opposed to no limit prior to this.
Journalists, photographers and videographers are required to scan the MySejahtera QR code at the entrance, wear face masks, use hand sanitisers and maintain a one-metre social distancing.
Anyone with body temperature higher than 37.5oC will not be allowed in.
Journalists are only allowed to be at the media room, with cubicles and tables arranged and marked to ensure social distancing.
Additional space has also been provided to accommodate a big number of media practitioners who are otherwise spread across the lobby, cafeteria and other areas around the building.
There is also designated space at the media centre for MPs and ministers to hold press conferences, and reporters are no longer allowed to door-stop MPs.