I was in Parliament last Thursday, July 28, to observe the passage of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill (No 3) 2022 on the prohibition of parliamentary members from party-hopping, in short the Anti-Hopping Bill. It was my first attendance in the Dewan Rakyat in almost three years.
I attend parliamentary sittings now and again, principally to observe the performances of ministers and MPs at close range. Other than that, it helps me professionally to listen in more attentively to the debate on the bills or issues of the day.
As in any meeting with a big attendance, there were also those dull and monotonous sessions with ill-prepared input from some. In the Dewan Rakyat, the same is true, unfortunately.
Some lawmakers took pains to prepare well for their debates and you do learn from them, especially if they have something new to share. Others were lazy and do not participate at all.
I know of a few MPs, including from Sarawak, who do not open their mouth for as long as I can remember while I was present in the august chamber. All they do was to stand up and refer the number of the question for the minister to reply. These MPs are unfit to be in Parliament, this much I have to state here.
From where I sat inside the dewan last Thursday, I could see Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar busy preparing his presentation speech for the bill to be voted upon that afternoon.
I sent Wan Junaidi a quick congratulatory WhatsApp message for a job well done with the long-awaited bill. He responded with a ‘thank you’, and informing me that after the voting, he would have to attend a press conference and then quickly leave for KLIA to catch a flight to Kota Kinabalu.
In passing, I think it is only fair to credit Wan Junaidi for the great job with the Anti-Hopping Bill in particular. Since his appointment by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to helm the Law Ministry last August, Wan Junaidi has been kept on his toes.
I think the Law Ministry is probably the second most busiest after the Health Ministry over the past year. COVID or no COVID, MCO or no MCO, work goes on in the Prime Minister’s Department where the Law Ministry is.
I am also happy that Wan Junaidi has shared many of his views on issues I brought up with him over the past years. We may not necessarily agree all the time but I like to think that our discourses have always been meaningful and worth our time.
So, everyone is happy that the Anti-Hopping Bill has been enacted at long last. We need to put a stop to the culture of frogging – elected representatives jumping from one party to another at their whims and fancies.
The Sheraton Move of February 2020 was said to be what really opened the eyes of our political leaders from both sides. Never before in our 60 years of nationhood has a duly elected government been toppled by lawmakers switching sides by turning into despicable, treacherous political frogs.
But Wan Junaidi was also honest when he stated in May this year that the bill to restrict MPs from switching parties will not prevent another “Sheraton Move”.
He clarified that it will also not apply to MPs who are expelled from their parties.
According to Wan Junaidi, coalition hopping was a major issue during the discussions over the bill and “we decided to follow international practice”.
“In other countries that have anti-hopping laws, it is only to prevent individuals from switching parties. The essence of the law is that we prevent MPs from simply switching parties,” the minister said.
Moving on, I am also pleased to hear Wan Junaidi taking up the challenge to formulate a ground-breaking Political Financing Act to regulate the financing of political parties with the drafting of a policy scope for such a bill by the special cabinet committee on corruption.
This was a subject I took up in this column here last Wednesday.
Then, Wan Junaidi has also pledged to raise in the cabinet the proposal to limit the prime minister’s tenure to 10 years.
This was part of the MOU deal between the prime minister and the opposition Pakatan Harapan signed in Spetember last year.
To Wan Junaidi, kudos again for a job well done. Every success for the others to come. Godspeed.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.