On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Give us a battle of wits, not fists

This is unprecedented in Malaysian legislative history.
There have been walkouts, uncouth language and challenges of a fight outside
the chambers, but never punch-ups. In Parliament, there has always been a lot
of hot air for political expediency before both sides laugh it off and walk to
the canteen for a drink. But what happened last week is a total disregard for
civility by the two lawmakers. They behaved like ruffians and certainly do not
deserve their honorifics of Yang Berhormat (Honourable).

There is no need for them to offer excuses and justification. The bottom line
is that it is wrong for anyone to be involved in a fight. Teng, the Bandar Klang
assemblyman, is telling everyone that he is the victim and that it was Zakaria
who used derogatory words on him. Zakaria, the Selat Klang assemblyman, claimed
that he was misunderstood. He denied using the words Cina babi (Chinese pig) on

He claimed he had advised Teng that it was inappropriate for a non-Muslim to
dwell on halal (allowed in Islam) and haram (prohibited by Islam) which
concerned Muslims but Teng was offended by the remark.

He said Teng argued he had every right to use the terms halal and haram to
which he (Zakaria) replied jokingly: “Hey Cina, babi untuk you halal, untuk
saya haram (Hey, Chinese, pork is halal for you but haram for me).'' Zakaria
claimed that Teng got angry as he misunderstood the phrase used by him and
proceeded to challenge him to a fight. The uproar began when Teng, a lawyer,
had asked why the term haram was being used in illegal small and medium
industries (SMIs) since the entrepreneurs earned a living out of halal
business. Zakaria reportedly confronted Teng during the coffee-break; a scuffle
broke out and turned into a brawl.

Teng was allegedly slapped. He retaliated with a punch before an unidentified
man, said to be a supporter of Zakaria, joined in the fray.

Giving chase in the State Assembly building, Teng rushed into the room of
Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Mohamed Khir Toyo to tell him what had happened.

Dr Khir then got the two men to shake hands and make up. But the next day, Teng
said the issue was not over and threatened to lodge a police report.

The matter is, indeed, not over – as far as Malaysians are concerned. Both
assemblymen need to be censured.

The fight might have happened outside the assembly chamber but they deserve to
be suspended for their bad behaviour. The legislators seem to lack understanding
of their role. There seems to be arrogance on the part of Teng. His idea of
opposition is restricted to running down the Government. There must be some
finesse, even if one is an opposition member. Zakaria obviously needs a lesson
on religious, racial and cultural sensitivity. He ought to be more careful with
his words, particularly if they can hurt the feelings of other races.

He must be mindful that he is elected by Malaysians of all ethnic groups, not
merely by one race. He represents all communities. Racial slurs have no place
in Malaysia. In fact, it is better that our politicians learn, and quickly too,
that communalism no longer works. Questioning the patriotism of an ethnic group
might work in the politics of the 1960s – not now.

In fact, words like kaum pendatang (immigrant race) or bangsa asing (foreign
race) should be considered unparliamentary and even seditious. Making
references to China and India to a loyal Malaysian, born and bred in this
country, is unacceptable.

The DAP must understand the sensitivities of Muslims, too. Some of its leaders
may be familiar with a few Islamic terms after taking part in ceramahs
(political gatherings) with PAS but that doesn't make them experts in Islam.
Our MPs and assemblymen will earn more respect if they deliver well-researched

Malaysians are not even asking for intellectual debate; the least they could do
is to behave themselves and set good examples.

The ruckus in the Selangor Assembly was not the only one. Recently, PAS MP for
Pokok Sena Mahfuz Omar and Barisan MP for Tampin Shahziman Abu Mansor
challenged each other to a fistfight outside the House.

On Oct 27, opposition MPs rudely interrupted Finance Minister Tun Daim
Zainuddin when he was delivering the Budget speech. And who can forget Mentri
Besar Datuk Adenan Yaakob who showed a lewd sign during the Sanggang
by-election earlier this year. Then there is PAS MP for Sik Datuk Shahnon
Ahmad, who wrote the book SHIT and used vulgarities against the

Worse, he was supported by the party ulamaks (theologians) who preach morality.
It is best that our legislators take a hard look at themselves. They must
realise they now have a better-educated and more-informed electorate who have
higher expectations of their elected representatives.

We want to see a battle of wits, not a battle of fists, among our