Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good manners badly missing

i do not have fanaticism over certain public figure, especially over MPs these days, but i do believe that political differences can be put aside in agreeing over an undeniable facts.


Good manners badly missing


WHAT follows is written more in sorrow than in anger, for I find the rapidly recurring incidents of puerile and disrespectful behaviour by members of parliament a sad advertisement for our long tradition of parliamentary democracy.

In recent months, we have witnessed unseemly and unacceptable parliamentary behaviour, some even occurring during a debate on the Royal Address.

There has been a continuing litany of abusive name-calling and personal denigration by MPs, to the point of requiring the speaker to suspend the sitting.

One of the abiding verities of parliamentary democracy is that policy and decision-making is informed by civilised argument, through the process of properly informed debate.

The principle of parliamentary debate in the Malaysian democratic context is conducted under rules largely derived from British parliamentary procedure.

(It is interesting to note that the opposition party in the British Parliament is actually called "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition".)

These procedures are set out in our parliamentary standing orders and conducted under the auspices of the speaker.

Traditionally, the parliamentary process involves not just debating policy and decisions but calling to account the government and its ministers.

To gain the maximum national benefit from this process requires discipline and exemplary manners from all members of the house, regardless of party or status.

You do not win arguments by shouting or by attempts at character assassination.

At best, this takes the form of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and, at worst, replicates the Queen of Hearts' idea of justice!

Modern government is a highly complex affair and it is quite right and proper for MPs to scrutinise government performance and proposed legislation on behalf of the people they represent.

Furthermore, it is also right and proper for opposition and other members not only to question ministers but to propose alternatives.

If this is carried out in a mature debating manner, it not only serves to strengthen policy and legisla-tion but also adds value to a de-mocracy.

Unfortunately, this has not been the recent case in Malaysia.

Instead, Parliament has been subjected to disruption, personal abuse, disrespect, walk-outs and even threatening behaviour.

Let me give an example. Following the recent announcement by the prime minister of the 1Malaysia concept, the opposition did not oppose the concept; they did not suggest any critical commentary and they did not even offer any ideas on how 1Malaysia could be made better.

Instead, they launched a totally unwarranted attack on the integrity of the prime minister. This was the only reaction to a policy designed to bring all Malaysians together!

Of course, and understandably, some people get emotional in the heat of political debate, but even then, there is no excuse for rank discourtesy and bad manners.

Why should this be happening? One cannot help but come to the conclusion that some MPs do not seem to know how to debate correctly, or it may be the case that they have no constructive ideas to offer.

Worse is that some may actually want to disrupt, damage and destabilise the country and its system of governance in the belief that the people will then turn to them.

As the saying goes, "you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time".

To that I add that the Malaysian electorate is savvy enough not to be taken for a ride.

One of the ironies of the situation is that as a minister, the more time the opposition takes up scoring petty points and planning devious diversions, the fewer questions my colleagues and I have to answer.

Of course, the real losers in this are the people. I sense that many in our electorate are fed up with the juvenile antics of some MPs.

Surely, the electorate has a right to expect that the representatives not only show good and ethical behaviour but also contribute to the advancement of the nation in a positive and creative manner.

It is a sad but undeniable fact that the type of behaviour I have described not only cheapens and damages the parliamentary process, but is an affront to the principles of democracy.

In the end, it will weaken Parliament as more and more of the electorate become disillusioned -- then we all lose.

Parliamentary democracy is a fragile flower at the best of times. Damage it and we risk fracturing an integral part of our civilisation, our form of governance, and our freedoms.

Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is minister of rural and regionaldevelopment

1 comment:

Abu Humairah said...

couldn't agree more...

masih adakah pemimpin adil & pengasih yg benar2 fikirkan rakyat,bukan perut sendiri??