On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

No side-shows in the House please, YBs

But it looks like all these have been forgotten, if not
ignored by some of our lawmakers.

The MPs were supposed to create a positive impression of
themselves "so that every visitor to the Dewan Rakyat must be satisfied with
the standard of debate in the House", in Pak Lah's words.

While the majority of MPs have carried themselves with
decorum and dignity, there are still certain legislators whose performances, if
not antics, have continued to tarnish the image of the House.

Granted that proceedings of the House can sometimes be
monotonous, some MPs believe that they need to liven up the House and, in the
process, get their names published in the newspapers.

From name-calling to provocative statements, to remarks with
racial overtones, these MPs seem to have the assumption that their performance
is being judged in this manner.

But Malaysians expect their Yang Berhormats, whether on the
government or the opposition, to debate in a consultative and moderate tone.

They watch the debates in Westminster
and ask why our lawmakers cannot measure up to the debating skills of their
British counterparts. The intellectual content and eloquence are sadly lacking.

With over 200 MPs, we cannot expect every single one to
behave like ladies and gentlemen but they must understand that as lawmakers,
they hold certain responsibilities.

It is one thing to be loud and passionate to get one's
message across, but it is a different story when MPs have to shout and call
each other names. Calling each other animals at the Dewan Rakyat has almost
become a norm.

Of late, there is an even more disturbing trend. Given the
sensitive nature of religious issues, we expect our MPs to use their heads when
discussing issues affecting all Malaysians.

Instead, we see MPs who only see an issue from their own
religious and ethnic perspective. While the choice of words and body language
of the opposition MPs have upset the backbenchers, the intimidating manner of
some backbenchers to shut down their opponents is equally sad.

I am still trying to understand the manner in which Minister
in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Nazri Aziz engaged DAP MP Teresa Kok
recently on the tudung uniformity issue in the police.

Granted that he has strong views on the issue, he must
realise that as a Cabinet minister, his stance would be reflective of the
Government. As a senior Cabinet member, we expect him to exercise restraint,
even when the political temperature goes up, as it would be a test of his
maturity in crisis management.

Unlike PAS and DAP, which essentially represent only one
particular ethnic group, the Barisan Nasional is a coalition of 14 component
parties which represent all races.

Nazri must remember that he also represents other races,
which also include many Barisan supporters. Surely their views are as
important, and as a minister, he must downplay certain sensitive issues. More
importantly, the line between PAS and Umno must remain clear.

I must, however, commend Agriculture and Agro-based Minister
Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin for his calm and cool manner in handling the issue of
the closure of pig farms in Malacca. It is a delicate issue, and as he said, it
is also regarded as a sensitive issue.

But that doesn't mean it must be swept under the carpet. He
handled it well without hurting the feelings of any particular community and he
showed that he was committed to finding a solution.

Last week, he told the House that "any decision to close
down or move pig farms should be put on hold until a formula acceptable to
everyone is found," adding that the issues involved state governments such as
the availability of land and the impact of the farms on the surrounding

The fact is that as long as Malaysia
remains a plural society, there will be issues affecting the community which
will be public. Any action taken would, in some ways, affect all of us. The key
to resolving such issues deemed as sensitive would be to handle them in a moderate
way, and that has been the winning formula for Malaysia.

Our politicians should take the cue from Pak Lah. He has
never uttered any remark that can cause ill feelings among Malaysians. He has
his flaws but no one can deny that he is a moderate and fair person.

As we celebrate the 50th National Day next year, our
politicians should also learn a thing or two from Tunku Abdul Rahman. He was
loved by all races and not just one race. It will be sad if our MPs merely want
to remain as jaguh kampung (kampung heroes) who are perceived by Malaysians as
merely good at picking up fights, throwing tantrums and making racist remarks.

Let us see MPs who can engage in high-quality debates with
elegance and witty repartee, not clownish and intimidating antics. Well-researched
speeches with the right dose of punchlines are what we look forward to, not
petty side-shows.