Contemptible Parliamentary Tactics
West Malaysian Members of Parliament were informed today tat their notices of questions for oral and written answers and motions submitted in the English language have been rejected.
In a letter to MPs today, the clerk to the Dewan Ra’ayat, Inche Ahmad bin Abdullah, said these notices must be in Bahasa Malaysia in
accordance with the provisions of the National Language Act, 1967.
The National Language Act, 1967 does not prohibit MPs from submitting notices of questions and motions in English.
In fact, MPs had good reasons to believe that English could be used in notices of question and motions.
FIRSTLY, in his original letter was dated 25th January 1971 informing MPs of the first meeting of the First Session of the Third Parliament on February 22, and inviting questions and motions, Inche Ahmad bin Abdullah did not give notice that such notices would only be entertained if they are in Bahasa Malaysia.
SECONDLY, his original letter was itself in two languages, Bahasa Malaysia and English. It is unlike his letter today, which specifically states tat the English version is a translation.
THIRDLY, the National Language Act, 1967 does not disallow the use of English in Parliamentary proceedings. Clause (5) of the 1967 National Language Act reads:
“5. The President of Dewan Negera, the Speaker of the Dewan Ra’ayat or the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of any State, or other person performing for the time being the functions of any such office, may permit any member of either Houses of Parliament or of the Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, to use the English language in addressing, or otherwise participating in the work of, either Houses of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly.”
FOURTHLY, from the enactment of the National Language Act in 1967 to the dissolution of Parliament in 1969, MPs continued to submit questions and motions in the English language. If this parliamentary practice is to be changed, MPs should be informed of the change. This was not done.
FIFTHLY, After the deadline for questions and motions on February 5, 1971, MPs have received letters from the Dewan Ra’ayat indicating the rejection of some questions on the ground of infringement of Standing Orders, implying acceptance of other questions. It is only today, 12 days after the expiry of the deadline for motions and questions, and six days before opening of Parliament, that MPs are told that their questions and motions in English are rejected.
The DAP MPs have altogether sent in about 500 questions and two motions, all of which are now rejected. Other opposition MPs suffer the same treatment.
We protests most strongly against this despicable government tactic to silence and frustrate MPs from being truly the voice of the people and electorate. One would have thought tat this is the time for all MPs, the Government and the Opposition, to find a way to make democracy meaningful, and lead this gravely divided nation onto new paths of solidarity and unity. But no. Government Ministers seem more pre-occupied with petty things like how to spring last-minute, despicable surprises on Opposition MPs to silence their voice.
We are aware that it is not Inche Ahmad bin Abdullah’s decision, as he is only a civil servant carrying out government orders.
We would like to know whose decision is this, for this betrays a phenomenal pettiness of mind in the Minister who made this decision.
We call on the Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, to intervene and overrule this contemptible decision.
Let Parliament re-open without any such despicable and contemptible tactics. Should the government decide to permit the use only of National Language, the least it could do is to give ample notice to all MPs and the country.