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Government Truths And Opposition Lies - MGG Pillai
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23/12/1999 9:50 am Thu

Government Truths And Opposition Lies

The foreign minister, Dato' Syed Hamid Ali, is incensed the National Front is accused in Parliament of getting funds from Israel for its recent election campaign. He demanded proof for this allegation, which he would not provide when he accused the Australian, British, Canadian high commissions and the United States emba#sy of funding the opposition. The National Front, the minister wants us believe, only speaks the truth, the opposition only lies. Which is why he does not need to produce proof while the opposition has to. But his predicament, and the frequent stupidy, of his remarks is one which applies to the National Front MPs from now on. The Opposition Leader, Dato' Fadhil Noor, accused cabinet ministers of undermining the authority of the House on the second day of the current disputed session yesterday (21 Dec 1999) by staying away. Only six cabinet ministers were in the House at any one time during the morning session. The National Front must refine its act by meeting headon the opposition challenges. With the Opposition Leader also a Malay, and with no Mr Lim Kit Siang to blame (even if the Prime Minister tried to on the first day), the Prime Minister and his government is painted into a corner. Furthermore, it would be difficult for National Front MPs from now on to allege the absence of a quorum when the Opposition brings up contentious issues.

PAS comes to Parliament well prepared. Its MPs meet regularly at PAS headquarters in Taman Gombak during parliamentary sessions to refine their strategic and tactics. There is a sense in their seeming madness. Which is why their responses over the past two days seem so well put and the Government bumbles. More than that, PAS seized the advantage in this current session with the Government MPs scrambling to attack and coming out second best. The Prime Minister lost his cool on the first day, his offensive remarks on Islamic nations, which TV3 carried censored from mainstream newspapers the next day. National Front leaders, who needs no prompting to praise the Prime Minister's actions, decided on discretion this time and locked up their mouths firmly. Besides, the Prime Minister was not supported by his immense majority when he went on the attack. Virtually none spoke up in his defence. This is his conundrum. Having dismissed Parliament as a "rubber-stamping body" in his "The Malay Dilemma" and ensuring it in 18 years as prime minister, he now has to explain his actions to a rubber stamp. He and his MPs would have to think twice before staying away from the House in the future. With an opposition in readiness to pounce, the government could well find having its bills defeated and be forced on the defensive.

A Malay Opposition Leader changed the ground rules. The walkout damaged the Prime Minister more than the Opposition. The racuous attacks normal on such challenges when Mr Lim was Opposition Leader did not ensue. Dato' Seri S. Samy Vellu, Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, Dato' Seri Lim Kheng Yaik did not support the Prime Minister in his predicament. Nor were the public pressganged to attack the Opposition. Besides, the sudden silence on the Prime Minister's activities on television after the general elections explains the harsh reality of the Prime Minister's irrelevance in the national agenda. The government is forced to account for its actions, which it never had had to. The convulsions in UMNO is real, would continue so long as the Prime Minister is in office with the former deputy prime minister fighting his battles from a moral high ground, despite his jail sentence for corruption and the s###my trial under way. Whatever Dato' Seri Anwar's faults, his role in the present crisis is unmistakeable. He is the unmistakeable political catalyst dropped into the chemical solution of reformasi to attract hundreds of thousands of particles of support to change the character of the catalyst and the solution. It is this Dato' Seri Anwar that changed the face of the Opposition and makes the Prime Minister's life so confrontational.

The Opposition has scored its first victory. Parliament will not pa#s the 2000 Budget as the government wanted. A supplementary to the Supplies Bill will keep the Government alive until the next session of Parliament in February. There is another quirk the Government must address itself. When Parliament was dissolved, all unpa#sed legislation, including the Budget, lapses. It has to be introduced afresh, which means the finance minister has to re-present the Budget. That is not done. But it must. It is not enough the say that since the Budget had been presented, there is no need to repeat the exercise. That budget is void with the dissolution. The one good thing that has come with the present session of Parliament is that it has forced the government to move into an area of intellectual activity it is alien to: to think. But that does not let the Prime Minister out of his current predicament. Especially, his need to be present throughout sessions to prevent his administration from being ambushed by the Opposition. That possibility alone makes Parliament sittings worthwhile from now on.

M.G.G. Pillai

Link Reference : Proxy List Dec 1999