ANALYSIS The Parliament sitting is set to reconvene tomorrow and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's motion for a private member's bill is listed as the fourth item in the Order Paper.
Hadi's private member's bill seeks to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or Act 355, to remove the punishment limit that will allow for the partial implementation of hudud in Kelantan.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang has raised doom and gloom, questioning if it would mean a "tectonic shift" to the fundamental basis of the Merdeka constitution and the Malaysian agreement.
However, PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli believes the issue has caused unnecessary discord in the opposition as procedure-wise, even if the motion is passed, it will only put the ball in the government's court.
This is because if the motion is passed, it would be considered the first reading – but there would be no amendments to Act 355.
Instead, the private member's bill would then be submitted to the minister in charge who must later come back to Parliament with the amendments that would be adjusted by the government for the second reading.
For opponents of Hadi's bill though, one step closer to amending Act 355 and removing PAS' last obstacle to hudud, is too close for comfort.
BN's 'consensus' or not?
While the first vote on the motion will not have major legislative significance, it carries with it political repercussions for parties like MCA and DAP which have campaigned to uphold a secular criminal justice system.
This explains why certain political parties have been less receptive to the argument that the first vote is merely a matter of technicality or procedure.
MCA, having more leverage in the government as a BN member as opposed to DAP, has repeatedly reminded Umno not to prioritise Hadi's motion when Parliament convenes.
Although Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has indicated there is already a BN "consensus" on this, there are several ways this can unfold even before Hadi's motion can come up for a vote.
Firstly, it should be noted that the upcoming 25-day Parliament session is dedicated to the Budget 2017 debate and there would only be six days for other matters, including Hadi's motion.
These are the four days before Budget 2017 is tabled, namely October 17, 18, 19 and 20, as well as the last two days of the sitting, which are Nov 23 and Nov 24.
Therefore, the first day is crucial for Hadi's motion because if it does not go to the floor then, it is likely to be relegated farther and farther down the Order Paper in the remaining five days as more government matters come up.
Government motions and bills always take precedence over non-government ones.
Here are some of the scenarios that may or may not see Hadi's motion going to the floor on the first day.
1. Gov't does nothing and Hadi's motion goes to the floor
It is possible for Umno to keep its promise to BN component parties not to prioritise Hadi's motion, yet still see it go to the floor.
This is because Hadi's motion is already high up on the list, at number four, not by the government's direct intervention – at least for this Parliament sitting – but due to procedure.
In the last Parliament sitting, the government had prioritised Hadi's motion but the PAS president later decided to postpone it.
Under Standing Order 15(5), a postponed private member's motion will take precedence over all other private member's motion in the following sitting.
As there are only three government bills and motions, which take precedence above all else, Hadi's motion then comes in fourth, followed by other private member's motions.
Therefore, if there is sufficient time, Hadi's motion will go to the floor and the government can use the "procedural" excuse in brushing off protest by BN component parties. After all, it did not prioritise Hadi's motion this time.
2. Gov't deliberately introduces more gov't bills to stall
If the government does not want to see Hadi's motion go to the floor, it can deliberately introduce more government bills on the same day.
The government bills will automatically take precedence and push other non-government matters down the Order Paper.
This would mean Hadi's motion would not likely have enough time to get to the floor before the day's sitting is over.
Hadi's motion will not be next in line on day two as four new government bills are expected to come up for second reading.
The four bills, which will be read for the first time on day one, are the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2016, Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill 2016, Court (Modes of Commencement of Civil Actions) Bill 2016 and Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2016.
3. MPs stall during debate of gov't bills and motions
Parliamentarians who do not want to see Hadi's motion go to the floor can deliberately stall when debating the preceding government bills.
This is normally done by making lengthy speeches and raising procedural issues to burn time.
If they waste enough time, Hadi's motion may not be able to get to the floor before the day's end and will have to queue behind more government bills the following day.
This technique is not uncommon in some legislatures and is known as a "filibuster".
However, in the Dewan Rakyat, the House speaker can rein in the stalling MPs and limit their speaking time in a bid to speed up the debate.
4. Gov't prioritises Hadi's motion
This would be the most straightforward method, without the need for the subtle or not-so-subtle manoeuvring.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said can request for Hadi's motion to be moved to the top of the Order Paper and it will immediately go to the floor.
However, this would likely upset BN component parties, which were already up in arms when the government prioritised Hadi's motion in the last Parliament sitting.
The unhappiness is likely to be worse this time, as BN component parties have given ample warning to the Umno-led coalition against such a move. - Mkini