Parliamentary Issues

“People Before Profits”

Yesterday at 4.30 pm, I joined the climate action marchers at Dataran Merdeka. There was a small but vibrant crowd of 200 to 300 people. I was contacted by a chap called Reza to join the march. I was also asked to give a speech on the haze and climate change/carbon pricing and what possible actions we can take in Parliament. I also spoke to a group of reporters who asked about my views on the haze. Upon scanning the crowd, I realised I was the only MP/Politician present at the event.

Briefly, this is what I believe Parliament must do. A transboundary haze legislation needs to be enacted as soon as possible. The ASEAN platform is simply not viable, the lack of action on the Rohingya humanitarian crisis is a case in point. So we need you to write/call/lobby your MPs to push for such a law. The law may take 6 to 9 months to draft, so we need to act fast before the next haze cycle. We can base 50% of our proposed law on the Singaporean 2015 transboundary law, with some major improvements.

Instead of relying on Iocal authorities (Indonesian) to fully cooperate, which renders the Singapore law somewhat limited in effectiveness, we must pass a law that leverages on the latest satellite and geo-spatial technology. Once the government can reasonably prove via these satellite images that a Malaysian company is involved, then we can immediately charge the corporations responsible and then put the onus of proving innocence to the corporations. In this extremely damaging public health matter, the burden of proof must be tweaked to favour the people and not the corporations.

Do note that this law is not an attack on the palm oil industry, but an enhancement against corporate greed. Under current laws, plantations can be developed but they are not allowed to do so via open burning. The corporations are supposed to mulch and recombine the organic matters into the soil. But this proper way costs a lot of money, whereas setting fire costs a mere matchstick. So setting fire to a forest is completely indefensible and is nothing more than corporate greed, driven by cost savings.

On carbon pricing, I have submitted a Parliament question to the Ministry of Environment. I will report when I get an answer in the next sitting, which starts in October. My proposal for carbon pricing in a form of a carbon tax on the power producers is also based on the Singapore experience. In Singapore, the power plants are profitable but do not make obscene profits and yet their government has decided to do something positive to combat climate change.

In Malaysia, the power plant tycoons with their super lucrative profits, have no moral excuse whatsoever not to pay a little bit for climate change. We shall see if my own PH government has the political will to give a small slap on the wrists of these tycoons. It is no wonder that the crowd yesterday were chanting, ” People before profits!”

A Casual Dinner with the Danish Ambassador

Good morning, but another hazy day. Last night, I had a long dinner with HE Jesper and his wife, Ane. My Tanzanian friend Jack Gotham also dropped by together with our mutual friend Michael Choong. I haven’t seen Jack for at least 12 years, I first met him as a corporate lawyer to draft an international JV agreement. It was really interesting to hear about political developments in Africa.

I am happy to note that many organisers of the community events in Subang have decided to defer their events due to the worsening haze situation. Nevertheless, one has decided to continue. So I will attend one community event tonight.

As for the matter of climate action, as you may know, there are global protests that started yesterday. I will also be taking part in a climate action protest at Sogo-Dataran Merdeka later today at 4 pm. I am not an environmentalist but I am a technocrat MP who has been looking into carbon pricing policies.

I hope some of you will be inspired (or very angry with the haze) to join us in Sogo-Dataran Merdeka. This is a legal gathering with permissions from authorities. Please wear a mask, if you decide to join us.

End of a Parliament Session

As I have said before, today’s Parliament sitting may very well be the very last one for the 13th Term since GE14 is around the corner.

It is very strange to say goodbye to friends and foes, knowing very well that some will be dropped, some are barred, some are retiring and some will lose in GE14. I want to wish all the best of luck and thank everyone for their service to the nation. Opposition MPs who stayed till the very end of today, spontaneously got together and took this last group photo.

 

Reform the Parliamentary Voting System!

Good morning from Parliament. Am having a breakfast meeting with YB Darell Leiking, YB Sim Tong Him and my intern Kevin. We are still talking about the vote event last night. I note many angry comments about the no show of many MPs from the Opposition. In light of the very close vote last night, I can fully understand the extra anger.

We are all adults. We all took an oath to serve the rakyat and Parliament. If MPs decide not to turn up they should be accountable to their own constituents. To be fair, some may have valid excuses for their abscene.

However I am fully aware that people are fed up with the state of politics in Malaysia. Politicians from both sides are failing the expectations of the public. This unhappiness has to do with the lack of transparency of government and the rise of spin politics.

To address this growing unhappiness, it is high time for Parliament to publish a daily attendance list. It is also high time for the vote count to be fully transparent.

Currently MPs are asked by a designated counting agent how they will vote. These votes are then tabulated by block and handwritten on a sheet of paper. The papers of all the blocks are then collated into a final number. We have no access to these papers. Other than your immediate MPs seated next to you, you will not know who voted which way. In the case of yesterday’s vote, the two PAS leaders that abstained sit right in front of me. After every important vote, I get reporters asking me for a detailed list, a list which I have no access to.

Therefore we must reform the voting system. The best way is to read out the name of every MP and ask them to individually state their position. This event should also be televised. If the vote count becomes fully transparently, I am certain attendance of MPs will improve dramatically!

Pakatan Harapan Vote Ambush

At 8.20 pm Pakatan Harapan MPs, together with Warisan ambushed UMNO BN on the vote of the Domestic Trade Ministry budget. The vote strategy was formed during the PKR pre-counsel meeting last week. The idea originated and was executed by YB Manivannan (PKR MP for Kapar) and endorsed by YB Dato Johari Abdul (PKR Chief Whip of Sungai Petani). Party whips from DAP, Amanah, Bersatu and Warisan were then brought into the loop and coordinated.

We decided to send a strong message to the minister that the rakyat is suffering high cost of living and oil prices, which is under the purview of his ministry.

When the bell was rung for a vote, we clearly outnumbered UMNO BN by 7 votes. The counting process started and the counting forms were eventually signed. After that point, other UMNO BN MPs and ministers rushed in and the signed documents were retracted. The process delayed further until they had enough numbers. This is a blatant abuse of the counting process. One of the MP jokingly warned the Speaker not to “turn off the lights” and fix the vote. To add fuel to our anger, and despite our strong protests, the Domestic Trade minister can be seen in the counting area to “supervise” the vote count. The counting process took an inordinate long 15 minutes to count.

The final outcome was 52 for UMNO BN and 51 for Pakatan Harapan.

Ultimately UMNO BN was saved by two senior PAS leaders who abstained from voting. The two senior PAS leaders are Ustaz Idris Ahmad of Bukit Gantang (vice president of PAS) and Hajjah Siti Zailah of Rantau Panjang (head of Kelantan PAS women wing). Once more PAS senior leaders showed their true colours that they are 100% pro UMNO BN. In a surprise move, six of the PAS junior backbenchers voted with us against UMNO BN. One of them explained to me that the high cost of living is a rakyat issue and as such he will vote with his conscience. The message is loud and clear, prepare for 3 corner fights so long as pro UMNO leaders are in charge of PAS.

After the vote was read, we demanded an explanation from the Speaker. Our legitimate protests were dismissed. The hall broke into a chant “TIPU! TIPU! TIPU!”. We walked out en mass and gave a press conference.

If they can blatantly influence the vote in the Dewan, what more in the counting halls of GE14. I therefore appeal to all my readers to become Polling and Counting Agents and protect our ballot boxes.

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