KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — The curtains closed on the 13th Parliament here with MPs on both sides exchanging respectful greetings and handshakes, and taking snapshots of each other even as they prepare to face off in the impending general election.
The sixth session of the 13th Parliament that started on June 24, 2013 had been a rollercoaster ride for Malaysians, many who got to see how MPs debate laws and tackle issues close to their hearts “live” for the first time with morning broadcasts on TV1 during sittings.
The 13th Parliament also saw Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia introducing Minister’s Question Time, which aimed to enable MPs from both the government bench and the Opposition to directly query ministers of a specific portfolio within a day’s notice.
Among Pandikar’s other initiatives to improve Parliament proceedings was the establishment of a special chambers to discuss specific issues raised by MPs.
Pandikar was quite chuffed with his initiatives, but conceded that “the changes I implemented might not be enough to satisfy all of you”.
“I was unable to implement a certain level of etiquette because of the refusal of some MPs to follow a certain etiquette in behaving as a member of Parliament,” he added.
The last few days of the 13th Parliament were marred by walkouts staged by the Opposition bench, the suspension of several Pakatan Harapan MPs even as important laws, like the Anti-Fake News Bill, were introduced and amid simmering discontent over the redrawing of electoral boundaries by the Election Commission, which will shape the upcoming GE14.
Pandikar said that the tension from having to manage the lawmakers for the past 10 years had taken a toll on his health.
Nevertheless, he said he was keen to return as Speaker if given the chance.
“Just like you who are anxious to be nominated again in your respective constituencies, I am also anxious to be nominated again by all of you,” he said after thanking MPs for their cooperation.
He said he would not resign as long as the lawmakers do not obey the standing orders and etiquette when his deputies handle proceedings.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi praised Pandikar for the changes he had brought about and also for the way he had handled proceedings.
He insisted that the lawmakers remained “friends” despite having differences of opinion in the House, and called for a healthy competition during the polls.
“The winner should not victimise those who lose, and those who lose should accept the result. [The Opposition] is quite confident they will win the elections, but we are even more confident than them that we will win.
“We shall meet each other in the arena in a good way,” Zahid added.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail similarly said that differences in the House should not spill over to create a negative environment outside the House.
“There are differences of opinion, but issues pertinent to the country are being voiced, we hope for better consideration of those voices,” she said.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, however, was scathing in his assessment, saying that he felt “ashamed” to be part of a Parliament that had not taken a stand on several key issues in past five years.
Lim was suspended twice, for six months each, in this Parliament, mainly due to his run-ins with Pandikar.
Similarly, PKR’s N. Surendran was also suspended twice, for six months each, after raising issues regarding Pandikar’s handling of proceedings.
Three other DAP lawmakers — V. Sivakumar (Batu Gajah), Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham (Beruas) and Nga Kor Ming (Taiping) — were suspended for 10 days each following their criticisms of Pandikar.
PAS lawmakers saw Parliament in a positive light, saying that they were able to effectively play their roles despite leaving Pakatan Rakyat halfway through the term to operate on their own.
“It was a challenging Parliament; it has become a mature Parliament. We, as the Opposition, were able to give constructive ideas. We had two different eras, but we were still able to perform, and we are very satisfied,” Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said.