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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stop the blundering


In this country—where everything is possible—one feels resigned to accepting even the worst of transgressions or blunders as par for the course. It’s almost surreal to expect things to be done properly and legally.

Look at the appointment of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Leader of the Opposition in the Dewan Rakyat. An Opposition Leader is a formal position granted to the leader of the Opposition party with the largest numerical strength in the House. He or she is entitled to some privileges and allowances. He has a definite parliamentary role to play as leader of the largest party in opposition.

Anwar is not even the official leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, to which he belongs; and even if we allow him some latitude as “advisor” of PKR, he is not the leader of the largest party in Parliament. The DAP has the most number of seats at 38.

To abide by the Westminster traditions that govern our Dewan Rakyat, the House should appoint DAP leader Lim Guan Eng (or perhaps Karpal Singh, who is DAP Chairman) as Leader of the Opposition. In the case of uncertainty or (unlikely) dispute within the DAP, the Speaker can decide who the Leader of the Opposition is from amongst the DAP MPs, and his decision is final.

We are said to be moving towards a first-world Parliament. If so, we must not indulge in the politics of expedience or convenience. Principles and correct practices must be followed.

Some Malays might not be happy with a Chinese or Indian as Leader of the Opposition but believe me, it’s better for the Malays in the long term to stick to principle and do the right thing. After all, the longest-serving Leader of the Opposition in Malaysian history is the current DAP MP for Gelang Patah, Lim Kit Siang, who held that position on three occasions with his longest continuous period of service being 24 years from 1975 to 1999.

The Pakatan Rakyat is just a loose grouping to which the law and Parliament cannot recognise and accord legal status. Its component parties cannot get together and declare whomever they fancy as their Leader in the House. They can certainly choose their leader outside Parliament and for the purpose of public rallies, but in Parliament the law must be followed.

I suggest that the Speaker, the Barisan Nasional Chief Whip and the leaders of the Opposition parties have a tea and kueh session to sort out this embarrassment. Otherwise, our Parliament must be the only one in the world in which the official Opposition Leader does not represent the largest party in the House. This can and must be corrected.

Anwar, who always talks about good values and ethics, should voluntarily relinquish the position as a matter of principle. - Zaid for Rakyat

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