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MCA Ministers led by the MCA President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai must have thought that they are very smart and clever in finding a way to get “insurance” to remain in the Cabinet for as long as possible by equivocating on PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill motion.

MCA leaders have been going round the country declaring that MCA Ministers will relinquish their Cabinet posts if Hadi’s private member’s bill is passed.

This is begging the question as MCA Ministers are completely avoiding the issue which may come up in the first week of Parliament beginning on Monday as to whether Hadi’s private member’s bill motion will be debated and passed by simple majority vote.

Will MCA Ministers declare that they will relinquish their Cabinet posts if Hadi’s private member’s bill motion is passed in Parliament either next week or the last week of Parliament from Nov. 21 – 24?

And if not, why not?

This applies to the Ministers from Gerakan, MIC and other Sabah/Sarawak Barisan Nasional component parties.

By making an artificial distinction between Hadi’s private member’s bill motion and Hadi’s private member’s bill, MCA Ministers hope to get “insurance” to cowardly and cravenly hang on to the Cabinet for as long as possible – relying on Standing Order 49(3), (4) and (5) to argue that although Hadi’s private member’s bill motion had been passed in Parliament, Hadi’s private member’s bill had not yet been passed.

Standing Order 49 (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) reads:

“49. (1) Any private member desiring to introduce a Bill may, subject to the provisions of Article 67 of the Constitution, apply to the House for leave to do so, and shall, at the same time, submit a copy of the Bill with an explanatory statement of the objects and reasons but shall not contain any argument.

(2) Every such application shall be made in the form of a motion, and the member making such application shall at the same time deliver to the Setiausaha a copy of his motion containing the title of his proposed Bill. The Setiausaha shall refuse to accept any application which does not conform with the requirement of these Standing Orders or any Federal law.

3) Leave being granted on a question put and carried, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first time and ordered to be printed and a copy of the Bill shall be delivered to the Setiausaha.

(4) The Bill shall, subject to Standing Order 51, thereupon be printed and circulated to members, and shall stand referred without discussion to the Minister concerned with the subjects or functions to which the Bill relates or, if there is no such Minister, then to such other Minister or member as Tuan Yang di-Pertua may nominate; and no further proceedings shall be taken upon such Bill until the Minister or member to whom it has been referred has reported to the house thereon.

(5) After the report referred to in the preceding paragraph of this Order has been made, the Bill shall be set down for second reading upon such day as the member in charge of the Bill shall desire.”

MCA Ministers are trying to argue that if Hadi’s private member’s bill motion is debated and adopted, Hadi’s private member’s bill had not yet been passed, as under Standing Order (4), the matter stands referred to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic affairs for a report to be submitted to Parliament.

This is misleading and fallacious.

As is evident from Standing Order 49 (3), if Hadi’s private member’s bill motion is passed by Parliament either next week or during the last week of the Budget Parliament, Hadi’s private member’s bill “shall be deemed to have been read the first time”.

However, the condition precedent to the second reading of Hadi’s private member’s bill is for the Bill to be referred to the Minister responsible for the portfolio and for him to submit a report on the Bill to Parliament.

As Standing Order 49 (5) made it very clear, the bill concerned during the whole process remained Hadi’s Bill and never became the Minister’s bill, as once the Minister had submitted his report, “the Bill shall be set down for second reading upon such day as the member in charge of the Bill shall desire”.

The lacuna in Standing Order 49 is what time span is provided the Minister under Standing Order 49 (4) to report to the House on Hadi’s private member’s bill – whether the Minister concerned can sit on the Bill without submitting any report to the House, which would mean that Hadi’s private member’s bill can be killed by the Minister’s inaction and never reach the stage of second reading until dissolution of Parliament?

Is this a lacuna in the Parliamentary Standing Orders that the MCA Ministers are banking on as the “insurance” where they do not have to honour their claim that they will relinquish their Cabinet posts if Hadi’s private member’s bill is passed – as distinct from Hadi’s member’s bill being given the first reading when Hadi’s private member’s bill motion is passed in the coming meeting of Parliament?

It is sad and shocking that UMNO, MCA and Barisan Nasional MPs, for their selfish short-term political interests, are prepared to be so irresponsible as to play around with the fundamental principles and basis of the Merdeka Constitution 1957 and Malaysia Agreement 1963 as to flirt with Hadi’s private member’s bill motion.

Let MCA Ministers as well as those from Gerakan, MIC and Sabah/Sarawak Barisan Nasional parties come out strong and clear whether they will relinquish their Cabinet posts if Hadi’s private members bill motion is passed by Parliament, whether next week or the last week of Budget Parliament, as the passage of Hadi’s private member’s bill motion is equivalent to passage of the first reading of Hadi’s private member’s bill!

(Speech at the DAP 50th Anniversary Dinner in Jasin, Malacca, on Saturday, 15th October 2016 at 9 pm)

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