The microphones of all MPs had to be switched off by the Speaker in the heat of the debate but Mokhtar’s profanity was loud enough for other members and reporters to hear. He must be proud of his record.
Strangely, the Hansard, which records the House meetings in verbatim, has no record of the outburst during the debate. Things would have remained that way until the media approached Bung Mokhtar in the lobby and, to their surprise, he admitted the deed and went on to defend himself on record.
Before that, the MP sparked a controversy when he uttered a sexist-tainted boleh masuk sikit? (Can I come in a little?) remark in his attempt to seek clarification from Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng.
As expected, he said he meant no harm and that the phrase was commonly used in Sabah.
Last week, Bung Mokhtar was back in the limelight again but this time he was joined by the “close one eye” Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusuf, who once accused certain top Customs officials of selling confiscated luxury cars cheaply to their “friends” in the palaces and other government departments but failed to produce any evidence.
On Wednesday, Bung Mokhtar reportedly said: “Mana ada bocor, Batu Gajah pun tiap-tiap bulan bocor juga (Where is the leak? Batu Gajah leaks every month too) against Batu Gajah MP Fong Poh Kuan who had complained about the leaks in the Parliament lobby.
An angry Fong proposed to refer Mohd Said, the MP for Jasin, and Bung Mokhtar, to the Rights and Privileges Committee, saying that the remarks were insulting and derogatory to women.
A motion by the DAP MP to refer the two MPs to the panel was rejected by Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib on a technicality, saying Fong had filed the motion a day later. In short, the two BN MPs were let off the hook.
But what was more frustrating was the lame defence put up by some backbenchers.
Tangga Batu MP Datuk Idris Haron said Fong should not see the remark as a gender issue and accused her of using it to get publicity, saying “we should take them as a joke, not as a personal attack”.
Petrajaya MP Fadzillah Yusuf said the statement never intended to humiliate women, adding: “I think he just said it as he was provoked.”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz also came to the two MPs’ rescue, saying he did not find the choice of words used to be offensive and that it was normal to play with words.
This must surely be a case of partisan politics going overboard. What Bung Mokhtar and Mohd Said said was not just impolite but appalling. As politicians with the Yang Berhormat (The Right Honourable) title, should they not have acted in a more honourable and gentlemanly manner?
Bung Mokhtar could be forgiven if he had made the remark for the first time, particularly during a heated debate, but this man has a pretty poor record when it comes to parliamentary debate. We expect our lawmakers to articulate their views without having to shout, much less shout profanities and make sexist remarks.
It is better for our politicians not to use the honorific YB if they cannot live up to the expectations of the rakyat as role models. Not many of us expect our lawmakers to speak like Tony Blair or Bill Clinton but the least they could do is to exercise some restraint when debating issues affecting the people and the nation.
In 2000, Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN – Sri Gading) touched a raw nerve when he started his speech saying: “It is unusual for women’s issues to be touched (raised) by men,” and after a pause, he added, “but women are supposed to be touched by men.”
When Bung Mokhtar asked why single woman found it hard to remarry, Mohamed replied that it was generally due to their not-so-favourable age, adding that “men, when it comes to younger women, they will definitely drool”.
Last year, Bung Mokhtar, in a heated debate with Karpal Singh (DAP-Jelutong) shouted: “You should keep quiet. It’s a lucky thing that you are in a wheelchair. You almost died once (in an accident).” The DAP leader had earlier criticised Bung Mokhtar: “Dia otak tak centre (the MP is insane).”
The Opposition also has its share of ugly MPs who are afflicted with the foot-in-the-mouth disease.
The PAS MP for Rantau Panjang Abdul Fatah Harun made headlines last year when he labelled divorcees as gatal (randy) and went on to say it was not a sexist remark.
Malaysians had never heard of this unknown MP until he asked in the Dewan Rakyat whether some women who divorced their husbands were more intent on getting separated. He claimed these single mothers did not look like they were sad about their divorce.
Abdul Fatah said he based this on his observation at gatherings and parties, and the impression was that these women were gatal. He went on to say that it was quite obvious why these women ended up divorced or why their husbands left them.
Really, some of our lawmakers never cease to amaze us, especially Bung Mokhtar and Mohamed Aziz. Despite repeatedly displaying political cockiness and being uncouth, they still get themselves re-elected.
Malaysians have been spared from the physical drama which Taiwanese lawmakers are notorious for but we must end the name calling, the sexual innuendoes, intimidation, subtle threats and racist remarks that are often displayed at every Parliament session.