Why were 26 PR lawmakers absent from the debate and vote of POTA?
April 7, 2015
By Amirul Ruslan
In a move that will have a monumental impact on the country, Parliament passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) without any amendments. The vote was not even close: 79 for, 60 against.
Few doubt the return of detention without trial will not be abused. As we have seen with the Sedition dragnet in recent months, and in the examples set forth by the Internal Security Act before it was repealed, provisions meant to combat militant activities often end up being applied to activists, journalists, members of civil society, and Opposition leaders.
Yet, despite the vigorous and repeated criticism of the bill, it was Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers who failed to muster the numbers.
79 votes for the bill? But PR won 89 seats in the 2013 general election — now 86, after PKR sacked Khalid Ibrahim; after losing the Teluk Intan by-election previously held by DAP’s Seah Leong Peng; and most recently, after the sodomy conviction denying Anwar Ibrahim his Permatang Pauh seat.
How is it that as many as 26 Pakatan lawmakers were absent from the POTA debate and vote? By any metric this is an embarrassment tantamount to betraying the rakyat’s trust: 31% of Pakatan Rakyat’s presence in the Dewan Rakyat was not, in fact, present yesterday.
It is worth reminding these absentee MPs that they were elected to Parliament to represent the interests of their constituents, not their own.
No such example was made when these so-called parliamentarians blatantly ignored the importance of giving their constituents their voice in this debate of national significance.
By dropping the ball, these MPs forced their 60 attending colleagues to debate a bill that was a foregone conclusion.
It is to their credit that they maintained a tough fight with over 14 hours of debate, delaying the approval of POTA until 2.25am.
But will PR be able to challenge the all-too-frequent criticism that the pact prefers grandstanding to policy, now that a repressive law has returned — and will inevitably be used on dissenters from their side?
Amirul Ruslan is a journalist and an FMT reader
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