On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Jester performance of MPs not amusing

Those of us who have watched the debates in the British Parliament on television, even for just a few minutes, must have wished that our wakil rakyat could do the same.

Last week, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib announced that 10 researchers would be appointed this year to help the MPs study the  issues raised, thereby enhancing the quality of the debates. He said priority would be given to masters degree holders with at least 10 years' experience in conducting research and in writing research papers.

These researchers would certainly be useful but the Dewan Rakyat may want to engage more part-time researchers as there are 219 MPs in all. Even if the MPs may not want to use the work of these researchers in full, the background and relevant points would help the MPs debate more intelligently.

But such support would be meaningless if our representatives cannot refrain  from making silly remarks, especially sexist ones, against women MPs.

Many of these remarks uttered over the past week are not only offensive but reflect badly on the MPs. For some strange reason, women MPs Chong Eng (DAP – Bukit Mertajam) and Fong Po Kuan (DAP – Ipoh Timur) are always targeted, presumably because they always fall into the political trap of reacting aggressively to such provocation.

Recently, one MP implied that Fong's assertive character was a reason why many Malaysian women prefer to remain single. The uproar had started innocently enough with Kota Melaka MP Wong Nai Chee talking about the rising number of divorce cases in Malaysia.

Not long after that, Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin (BN-Jerai) sought clarification from Wong, asking "what type of man would last with someone like the MP from Batu Gajah".

That was enough for the MPs from both the government and opposition benches to turn the Dewan upside down, with abuses being hurled as they shouted at each other. Yes, like rowdies in the school yard. The next day, the theatrics continued until Badruddin apologised and withdrew his remark.

The MPs presumably had a good time and a good laugh over it at the canteen while the reporters would have enjoyed the lively exchange of words. But Malaysians in general must have wondered what the point was about.

No one was left any smarter on how to cope with the rising number of divorce cases and why many Malaysian women chose not to get married but many would just remember the fierce verbal clash.

Another backbencher suggested last week that the Government abolish the Dangerous Drugs Act and instead provide free drugs to addicts, noting that the present death penalty had not deterred drug abusers.

Baharum Mohamed (BN – Sekijang) said drug pushers would be out of business if the Government started giving out free drugs, adding that the government could be the supplier.

We do not know the tone of this MP's suggestion and whether it was made in jest or in a sardonic manner but it is certainly mind-boggling. Surely Baharum is not suggesting that we follow the liberal stand of the Dutch government in dealing with drugs, including legalising marijuana.

Then there are the elected representatives from Penang, where the debates in the state assembly have always been lively even during the days of DAP representative Yeap Ghim Guan, notorious for his marathon speeches, and lawyer Karpal Singh, who once sent his pencil flying in the direction of then Chief Minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.

Last week, Batu Uban representative Goh Kheng Sneah suggested that a casino be built in Penang, saying he spoke with a clear conscience, as such a move would woo tourists to the state.

His proposal is unlikely to become a reality from a political, religious and social perspective. In the same speech, however, he also suggested that Penang set up a theme park, similar to the ones in Genting Highlands and Sunway.

It is good to know that Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon has tried hard to make Penang shine again after the criticism against the state leadership. He has organised workshops on tourism and conservation, as well as made promotional trips overseas. Due credit must be given.

But Penang must be cautious about theme parks. Many state governments start off with great plans but along the way realise that cool weather is crucial to the success of such parks, as in the case of Genting, while in Sunway, it is a wet theme park.

The elected representative of the week must surely be Ariff Shah Omar Shah of Seberang Jaya who suggested that George Town be renamed Bandar Datuk Abdullah Fahim, the grandfather of the Prime Minister. He also suggested that Gurney Drive be renamed Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee Drive, after the former Chief Minister.

There is nothing wrong with his proposal but it is outdated for Ariff Shah, in this age, to talk about changing the road names in order "to get rid of the colonial past, for the sake of our future generation".

As a Penangite, I hope that Ariff Shah will not suggest next that we tear down the heritage buildings in Penang, as those too would remind us of our colonial past, or to stop speaking English, the language of the colonialists.

Maybe we should even discard the western suit and tie that elected representatives wear to meetings as this would also be emulating the West too much.