A House in tatters

joceline tan
the star

It was one wild political circus at the Perak legislative meeting and the ensuing fiasco suggested that the acrimony between the two sides has reached a point of no return.

THE calm outside the Perak Legislative Assembly was a surreal contrast to the heightened political temperature inside the House.

The police had gone about in such a no-nonsense way to bar people from gathering in the area that one could have lain down in the middle of the road and not be run over by traffic.

Inside the grand building, pandemonium was the order of the day and no one, not even the fact that there were supposedly two Spea-kers in the House, could bring order to the proceedings.

It was one wild political circus from the word go.

In fact, what happened bordered on anarchy and it is difficult to visualise things returning to normal anytime soon.

The acrimony between the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat reached a point of no return yesterday.

“I don’t even want to speculate what will happen from here because people are no longer using their heads. It is all emotion that I am seeing, the law is being put aside,” said a source close to the palace.

The Barisan Nasional managed to push through its agenda yesterday, that is, to convene a new Legislative Assembly session, replace the Speaker and appoint three new House committees.

But it was not without costs and the embarrassing melee that ensued is something which Perak will not be able to live down for a long while.

Pakatan was bent on rejecting the fact that the Barisan holds the majority in the assembly and control of the government.

Barisan, on the other hand, was determined to cement its control of the House by installing a new Speaker even to the extent of forcibly removing V. Sivakumar from the chair.

“I thought things like this only happened in other countries,” said one former assemblyman from Perak.

One side is focused on forcing a snap state election, the other sees nothing wrong in carrying on till the general election.

Both sides are supremely convinced they command the moral high ground and no one is budging.

The Yang Berhormats demonstrated some astonishing behaviour that was more akin to lawbreakers than lawmakers. There was a lot of shouting, shoving, climbing atop tables, ringgit notes torn up and even a few punches thrown.

One assemblyman, caught in one of the scrapes, lost two buttons from his outfit, exposing his hairy tummy.

This will probably be the last time Malaysians would dare make fun of Taiwanese legislators.

And as some cynics claimed, there was “no sitting yesterday because the assemblymen were standing up” most of the time, trying to shout down each other and pressing on with their side of the agenda regardless of others.

For months, the joke had been about Perak having two Mentris Besar and two governments.

Yesterday, it really did seem as though there were two of each and, for several hours, there were even two Speakers.

The media had a field day although some of them did not know whether to laugh or cry at what was happening before their eyes.

The arithmetic does not favour Pakatan. The numbers are with Barisan but a government should not have to function surrounded by hundreds of security personnel.

The police could be put to better use given all those headlines of tragic snatch thefts in the last few days. They should not be monopolised to safeguard the very people who are elected to serve the people.

The Raja Muda got to deliver his royal address only at about 3.30pm, after Sivakumar had been physically taken out of the House and the new Speaker had taken his place.

The heir to the Perak throne looked regal and composed even after waiting since morning to make his royal address. He made no references at all to what had happened but he must surely be as troubled as everyone else.

His half-hour speech was the only time when there was decorum in the House because the angry exchanges between the two sides re-erupted after he left.

The ill-will between the rival camps was palpable and the House adjourned shortly after on a sour and uneasy note.

“There was no happy ending today,” said an aide to the Mentri Besar.

It was a day of records for Perak but not the sort of records to be proud of.

Yesterday saw not only the Speaker being replaced. Even the Speaker’s ornamental chair had to be replaced because it was damaged during the scuffle.

The damaged chair seemed like a metaphor for the Perak Legislative Assembly.

The reputation of the House has suffered a terrible blow after what happened. But, unlike a damaged chair, it cannot be repaired overnight.

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