SAME circus, different act. The dramatic highlight of the Perak legislative assembly sitting on 7 May 2009 was the violent removal of Speaker V Sivakumar by police officers. The highlight of Wednesday’s 28 Oct sitting was the simultaneous running of two separate assemblies under the same roof.
Was anything achieved? Sure, Barisan Nasional (BN) passed its state budget for 2010. This was done without any debate or vote from the 28 Pakatan Rakyat (PR) assemblypersons who didn’t want to legitimise Speaker Datuk R Ganesan‘s position. Pakatan Rakyat also passed three motions in its “own” sitting. Though realistically, these motions are hardly going to be entertained.
So far, BN shows no signs of bowing to the public’s desire for fresh state elections
From the perspective of the larger picture, which is the BN government’s legitimacy and public desire for fresh state elections, little was achieved. BN shows no signs of bowing to a snap poll. In fact, its 2010 budget suggests that BN will likely adopt populist measures for the remainder of the term to buy voters’ hearts and minds before the next general election.
PR’s lost cause?
PR assemblypersons are caught in a bind. They don’t want to endorse the BN government, its Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, nor Speaker Ganesan. But they could not boycott the 28 Oct sitting. Doing so would have put their seats at risk, according to PR’s embattled Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin.
So the PR tactic was to be physically present at the assembly, but to stage their own sitting to snub the BN and Ganesan.
“We have to keep up the heat on BN. We have already asked for a dissolution of the assembly so people must see that it is BN who is clinging on to power,” Perak DAP chief and Sitiawan assemblyperson Datuk Ngeh Khoo Ham tells The Nut Graph by phone.
PR endeavours to show it can operate as a normal assemblyHe says the separate sitting showed that PR could “operate as a normal assembly”. The motion it passed to recognise the Auditor-General’s 2008 Report on Perak was to highlight to the public PR’s prudent financial management, he adds.
“We want people to know that the Auditor-General gave our state government excellent marks for financial administration, and noted improvements in various departments, in the state economic development council and the religious council under our tenure,” Ngeh adds.
But as far as BN is concerned, all this is mere theatrics. “They just want to dramatise everything, to create a big show, otherwise their efforts would have all been wasted,” Zambry told reporters at a press conference after the assembly on Wednesday.
The BN tactic was to counter the rival sitting with silence and let PR representatives take centre stage with their antics. It gave Zambry the opportunity to brag about the BN‘s discipline and contrast it with PR‘s rowdiness.
PR’s Teja assemblyperson Chang Lih Kang maintains that they did not disrupt the assembly and that they were orderly. “We did not disrupt their sitting which we consider illegal. We held our own sitting to make our point — that we will not legitimise them,” he tells The Nut Graph.
Many performances have been held in Perak since February 2009
It’s a point PR has made repeatedly — in the holding of an assembly under a tree, at the Heritage Hotel in Ipoh, and in Sivakumar’s decisions as Speaker to suspend Zambry and other BN assemblypersons.
In reality, it’s all symbolic. It’s clear that BN doesn’t give a hoot about PR’s actions.
So is it worth it? Is it working? Ngeh insists there’s no other way to keep up the fight.
Since PR’s ouster in February 2009, the executive councillors under Nizar have continued to hold regular meetings, though not weekly, with state leaders of PR’s component parties. Ngeh says they meet to plan policies that they will implement if they come back to power. These policies are brought to the people in ceramah that PR continues to hold.
“Our assemblypersons also continue to channel requests for help and queries from their constituents to the civil service. We’re still functioning as elected representatives,” he says.
From peers to enemies
ZambryOn this score, BN could do better to accord the respect due to assemblypersons. While PR’s attempts to “rule” a state it no longer controls may be futile, the fact remains that the 28 are still the people‘s elected representatives who continue to serve voters.
But for these 28 lawmakers, the BN government locked down the assembly building with police blockades. What has happened is the complete breakdown of trust and respect between members of the same legislative assembly who no longer regard each other as peers in the serious duty of law-making.
Extremely heavy police presence was reported outside the assembly building, with more than 400 cops present. Inside, the corridors of the House were crawling with non-uniformed personnel. PR assemblyperson arriving outside the building and attempting to enter were stalled by police blockades so as to enforce Ganesan’s emergency rules. The rules were announced the day before to only let the PR lawmakers enter the House after their BN counterparts had taken their seats.
The actions of both sides in this circus are not making anything better. And yet, what else to do if fresh elections will not be held?
Ngeh says two cases pending in court could potentially resolve the impasse, although no one is placing bets that the courts would rule in favour of PR.
Nizar (pic courtesy of theSun)
Separately, the High Court has allowed Sivakumar and six others to challenge the Election Commission‘s (EC) decision not to hold by-elections for the Jelapang, Changkat Jering and Behrang state seats. These were PR seats which turned independent but supportive of the BN, hence leading to the fall of the PR government.
Ngeh says that if the Federal Court deems Zambry as the lawful menteri besar, PR will continue to challenge Ganesan’s appointment as Speaker. As for Sivakumar’s suit against the EC, the lengthy court process including appeals could render the possibility of by-elections in those seats academic.
It appears that Malaysians will just have to live with the embarrassing spectacle of an august House turned circus every assembly sitting. PR sees it as the only way to keep alive awareness about the BN coup, while BN believes PR is only making a fool of itself.
What do the people think? Unfortunately, the BN is not giving Perakians a chance to vote on that.
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