A Parliament is nothing less than a big meeting ‘of more or less idle people.

– Walter Bagehot, British journalist

We have probably heard of a herd of cows, a caravan of camels, a pack of wolves, but there are many collective nouns for animals that are much less well-known, and strange even.

Some of the oddest names for groups of animals/birds/insects are a congregation of alligators, a convocation of eagles, an army of caterpillars, a coalition of cheetahs and yes, a parliament of baboons.

English is a fascinating language indeed. As I understand it, a parliament of baboons was used tongue-in-cheek at times but also to demean and degrade underperforming lawmakers or those who misbehave as baboons are considered the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates.

As I write this, I read a report of Taiwanese lawmakers throwing punches and water balloons inside the legislature a few days ago. It was the third parliamentary brawl in a fortnight over the nomination of the head of a top government watchdog, according to the report.

Now, I would call that a parliament of baboons.

Back home, the behaviour of some of our members of Parliament also leaves much to be desired. Too many unruly incidents involving the use of unparliamentary language have been repeated.

Last year, we heard for the first time the four-letter expletive, “f**k”, being uttered in Parliament. This was after the MP, then in the opposition, was sneered by a government backbencher about a widely circulated video, purportedly showing the MP at a gambling table in a Singapore casino.

The angry guy then challenged his fellow MP to a fight outside. What kind of behaviour is this? Isn’t throwing such a childish challenge a rather shameful act?

So far, we have yet to witness lawmakers throwing punches or chairs at each other in the Malaysian Parliament. However, I will not be surprised if it happens one day.   

Not too long ago, in the Melaka state legislative assembly, a government member was heard shouting “babi, babi, babi” at his opponent in another widely circulated video.

He was seen walking across to the opposition bench and had he not been restrained by his colleagues, it could possibly end in a fisticuffs.

I have been attending parliamentary sittings over the last 20 years, both for work and as a visitor. I believe I have seen and heard enough of the unruly behaviour and uncouth lingo, including the use of sexist remarks, of some MPs.

Who could forget a remark like “she must be leaking” aimed at a female lawmaker in years gone by? That was utterly disrespectful and disgusting. The male MP must have forgotten that he was also conceived and born of a woman.

Then, what about the gelap (dark) and bedak (powder) remark just last week? Although the MP did apologise later, I doubt it was done with sincerity as he unconvincingly attempted to explain that he was referring to the place and not the person.

Like many Malaysians, I am totally ashamed of the antics of our MPs for turning the august House into a pasar malam during the opening session of Parliament on July 13.

From the live telecast of the proceedings, it is obvious that some MPS have been behaving worse than school kids, forgetting that they are lawmakers. Shouting abusive language seemed to be the norm for a good part of the sitting that day.

On his first day on the chair, new Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun had to adjourn the sitting early to calm the situation, but not before he ejected an
opposition MP from the august chambers.

It does not help that Azhar’s appointment as the Speaker has been mired in controversy with its legitimacy in question. I can only hope that he would be firm and fair and not condone the shenanigans of the rowdy, racist and sexist MPs.

For us, voters, I think it’s high time we pay serious attention to the qualities of our representatives. We put our trust in them to represent us with diligence as well as to promulgate laws of the land.

Have we been too trusting of these MPs? Could we have chosen better representatives or is it because we didn’t have a choice as they were selected by their respective parties and presented to us to choose?

We need urgent reforms to ensure that only people of honour, credibility and integrity are allowed to stand for election.

If you were to ask me, I would say that more than half of the current 222 MPs are unworthy to represent us in Parliament.

Why? Because we do have a parliament of baboons today.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

Feedback can reach him at tribunenew2019@gmail.com