Legal News: More On Legislations To Be Passed In The Dewan Rakyat

MPs burn the midnight oil

Their resolve in discharging their duties – despite some 20 hours of gruelling debates – is a credit to the legislators’ commitment towards a more responsible and democratic Dewan Rakyat.

MEMBERS of Parliament burnt the midnight oil on Friday to pass key legislations for greater freedom in the country, which include the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012 which replaced the much-dreaded and contentious Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA).

Their resolve in discharging their duties – despite some 20 hours of gruelling debates – is a credit to the legislators’ commitment towards a more responsible and democratic Dewan Rakyat.

Thirty-four MPs from Barisan Nasional, 17 from Pakatan Rakyat and an Independent stayed through the night to work for greater freedom.

The Dewan Rakyat’s clock was stopped for the longest time in 35 years to allow MPs to debate and pass the Printing Presses and Publications (Amendment) Bill 2012 and five motions related to finance before adjourning at 3.21am.

(The last time there was a similar marathon sitting was in 1977, when MPs debated on the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 1969 for Kelantan until 2.30am.)

The Bill, passed without any amendment, gives newspaper publishers the right to be heard and to challenge in court any decision of the Home Minister with regards to their publication permits.

There is no more “absolute” and “unquestionable” power by the minister to refuse, suspend or revoke a newspaper’s permit.

Laws passed earlier that day included the Universities and University Colleges (Amend­ment) Bill 2012 to give greater freedom to undergraduates to express their political affiliation, the Malaysia Volunteers Corps that empowers –but better manage – some three million Rela members and the Rukun Tetangga (Bill) Act 2012 that will see the creation of authorised neighbourhood watch patrols nationwide.

It was a momentous day earlier in the week when the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012 was passed to repeal the more than 50-year-old ISA. The power to detain a person without trial for two years – as a security threat and a political threat – will be a thing of the past.

For Barisan MPs, their effort to pass the laws reflected the Govern­ment’s commitment towards honouring and delivering Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s political transformation programme announced on Malaysia Day last September.

However, it was not all that noble for the Opposition who accused the Government of bulldozing the laws through the House.

For instance, Teresa Kok (DAP – Seputeh) said the Bills were being pushed through without much aforethought or time for debates.

However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz contended that there would have been time for debates if the Opposition MPs had kept their arguments constructive instead of interrupting debates with frivolous objections.

However, it was not all war of words between opposing lawmakers, who agreed to a motion by Khairy Jamaluddin (BN – Rembau) for further amendments to the Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) Bill 2012.

Though the amendments to the Act allows for undergraduates to express their political affiliation without the threat of punishment, lawmakers from both sides called for greater freedom.

Khairy, who brought the motion on behalf of the Barisan backbenchers’ club, argued for university students to be allowed to hold positions in both political parties and campus organisations.

This was accepted by both Govern-ment and Opposition lawmakers in a rare move of solidarity for a common cause.

At the Parliament lobby, the plight of the family living in the home of legendary entertainer Tan Sri P. Ramlee in Taman Setapak touched Barisan MPs. They came to the rescue after the house was reportedly sealed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, following unpaid arrears in quit rent over the past 10 years totalling some RM10,220.

Datuk Mohamad Aziz (BN – Sri Gading) said the hat was passed around and RM9,565 was raised to allow the showman’s daughter-in-law Suria Bakar (widow of his son Nasir Ramlee) and her two sons to continue staying at the house.

As the day ended, the Dewan Rakyat adjourned sine dine – with the possibility that the legislators had made their last act before Parliament is dissolved for the 13th General Election.

Source: The Star Online

By: Martin Carvalho

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2012

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