B. Suresh Ram
KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 11, 2007): The Dewan Rakyat approved by a two thirds majority a bill to amend Article 114 of the Federal Constitution today.
Opposition MPs from the DAP and PAS walked out of the august house in protest over the bill as well as the move by the government to arrest Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) activists.
A total of 16 Opposition MPs out of the 19 present walked out. Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR-Permatang Pauh), who was not present, later said she was stuck in a traffic jam and supported the move and would have walked out if she was present.
The two other MPs absent were Ismail Noh (PAS-Pasir Mas) and Abdul Fatah Harun (PAS-Rantau Panjang).
The protesting MPs led by Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang walked out before the reply by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz and the votes on the amendment were taken.
BN Chief Whip and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak was present.
Lim, flanked by Opposition MPs and speaking to reporters in Parliament Lobby, said they walked out in protest of the amendment which “sees no significant reform on the electoral process in the country as well as over the arrest of more than 20 Bersih activists, particularly those arrested on the steps of Parliament”.
He described the incident as not only the contempt of the police on the MPs but also on the Dewan Rakyat.
Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian) said the police action on the activists on the steps of Parliament should not have happened.
“Datuk Mustafa Ali did not take part in the Bersih gathering. He was invited by me to attend Parliament to witness the Constitutional amendment proceedings. We walked out to show that Parliament had lost its integrity,” said Salahuddin.
In a divisional vote adopted by the house after a day-long debate saw the motion to amend the Federal Constitution carried by a two-thirds majority.
The first round of voting at the policy stage saw 189 voting in favour, including sole Independent Sandakan MP Chong Hon Min. There was no vote against the bill due to the walkout.
A similar figure was carried at the policy stage, before the amendment was given a third reading and passed.
The amendment to Article 114 of the Federal Constitution was to increase the retirement age of the seven members of the Malaysian Election Commission from the current 65 to 66.
Updated: 07:10PM Tue, 11 Dec 2007
Article 114 amended, Opposition MPs stage walkout