Parliament: Smoking issues

There were a couple of points about smoking and cigarettes that were brought up in Parliament today.

As usual, MP Titiwangsa (Dr Lo Lo) was hard against smoking. I didn’t really catch the beginning, but she was talking about how our sporting tournaments and others are being sponsored by tobacco companies, like Malboro and such, and how this should not happen. She mentioned that countries that are very advanced in sports have mengharamkan this kind of sponsorship, and it follows that there are no giant billboards advertising tobacco companies. Her example was Australia.

MP Parit Buntar (Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa) suggested that the National Fatwa Council do something about this. He said that although there is currently a fatwa against smoking, but because it is not gazetted, the people will continue smoking as they know they will not be caught. So he says that the NFC should come up with a fatwa, and gazette is as soon as possible.

MP Wangsa Maju (Wee Choo Keong) said that he has not seen any of the TV campaigns sending the message of the ills of smoking. I’m guessing that it’s the “Tak Nak” campaign that he’s talking about. He says that it has been quite a while since he’s seen those commercials (public service announcement would be more appropriate) on TV.

MP Parit Buntar goes on to say that it is actually not enough that we ‘tell’ the people not to smoke. The government has to be proactive in initiating langkah-langkah to curb the industry all together. He mentions that the cigarettes these days come in all sorts of ‘exotic’ flavours like strawberry, and these appeal to the younger generation (he said kanak-kanak) and womenfolk, and this should stop.

MP Jasin (Ahmad bin Hamzah) came into the picture pretty late, but he said he was speaking from his personal experience, that the issue with smoking is not about whether one can afford it, but about habit, tabiat. He says that those who are smoking the most are those who are fishermen and labourers.

He also argues that the tobacco industry brings pendapatan lumayan to the country, and states some statistics about how many packets of cigarettes are being sold daily, and all that. He was met with a lot of boos on this point

Then he also compares prices of cigarettes in Malaysia which are at RM9, to those sold in Singapore, which are at $13. So he says that in order to deter smokers, the price for cigarettes should be increased drastically. MP Titiwangsa stood up to agree “200%”.

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I’ve heard stories from my friends about their friends. Boys/Men my age (20-ish) chain-smoking, but having not even more than RM10 in their wallets at any one time. So then how do they get the cigarettes? Well, they steal. Or shoplift, whichever term suits you better. At times, they manage to get so many packets out of the shops that they actually ‘distribute’ their spoils to other friends. So in a way, I agree that smoking is that of habit, not so much about affordability.

But for those who dare not do such things, raising the price of tobacco will be a great deterrent. That too, I agree. My dad started smoking from the legal age of 18, and has never looked back. Until the year he came to NZ, where cigarettes were expensive. Not only that, he couldn’t smoke just anywhere and everywhere, because there are strict laws about where one can light a cigarette. He found it too fussy to need to look for a place where he could smoke “in peace”, and so he quit, cold turkey. And that was after years of ‘resolving’ to quit.

MP Parit Buntar suggests that we start a new culture. We say najis dadah and najis rasuah, so why not start saying najis rokok as well.


Parliament: Winding up of Budget

Or at the very least, that’s what is SUPPOSED to happen.

The Malaysian Insider reports that Najib is going to reveal a new budget package, after revising some of the numbers in the previous budget.

It’s been more than half an hour since I saw Najib’s face on my computer screen. And I have yet to hear ANYTHING on the Budget.

All I’m hearing is Points of Order, and noise about how unprecedented it is for a Minister to not allow ‘penjelasan’ time until after he finishes presenting.

Look, let the man do his job. Let him present whatever it is that he wants to present, then make your points after. Whatever. Just let us hear it first! How in the world are you even going to ask for ‘penjelasan’, when he hasn’t even spoken?

What’s the use of complaining about how he should have come up with this new package two weeks earlier? It’s something worth complaining about, yes. But not when you haven’t even heard him out yet!

The Speaker is definitely exasperated. I am too, and I’m not even in the Dewan.

UPDATE: I was stranded with no internet connection for about 45 minutes. And now that I’ve got it back, it appears that the Opposition have left the building! Don’t know why they left, but under the circumstances I saw before, I’m assuming that they walked-out because of Najib’s unwillingness to allow ‘penjelasan’.

So now that Najib’s finally done with his presentation of what is essentially a new budget package, none of the Opposition MPs are there to make any rebuttal whatsoever.

So what’s the whole point?


Parliament: “Maaf tuan, tapi tuan dah mati.”

MP Tuaran (Mojilip bin Bumburing @ Wilfred) related two incidents, among others, about what is happening to the natives of Sabah concerning citizenship and the MyKad.

One: A native in Sabah lost his MyKad, and when he went to apply to get a new one, the person sitting behind the counter told him: “Maaf tuan, tapi tuan dah mati.” (I’m sorry sir, but you are already dead sir.”)

Two: A native with an English-sounding name went to KL to work, and when he went to apply for Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB), he was told that he doesn’t qualify because he is “bukan first-class bumiputera”.

MP Tuaran said that he stands by what he has claimed, because he had just called the father to this ‘non-first class bumi’ prior to coming to Parliament to get confirmation if indeed that was what was said to him.

Other than feeling sick in the stomach, I simply have nothing more to say.


Parliament: Of constructive criticism and ‘kamu’

During the morning session of Parliament, MP Kalabakan (Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur) brought up some very good points. First of all, he said that government TV stations like TV1 should start airing videos of Parliament debate sessions of BN Backbenchers criticising the BN government. That way, at least the people will know that not all BN MPs are follow-men. True.

Other points include:

Datukship for Shah Rukh Khan should be ‘taken back’. Not sure if that can be done, but he did say that it was a ridiculous thing to do, datukships should be given to local artists, and this ridiculous action could very well jeopardise the chances of ‘someone’ in the race for deputy presidency.

Is the ACA really independent? His point was that when SAPP left Barisan Nasional, Raymond Tan has been reported as saying that SAPP is being ungrateful because he had met with the PM to make sure that Yong Teck Lee is not investigated and prosecuted. He asked, is this independence?

The rising price of construction material. He said that developers are now in a pinch because they cannot afford to build with the original prices as the current prices have gone off the roof. Which I can understand. Hike in construction prices can halt development altogether.

Furniture sent to schools by the Education Ministry are not up to standard. Tables and chairs meant for students to study and work on start to crack and break within 3 months. There are schools where students are studying on the floor.

THIS, is the kind of debate and criticism that I expect from our representatives. Bring up the problems to the attention of other MPs, and make sure that things get done. If they don’t do anything this time around, make sure you bring it up again and again.

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But it’s funny. One good thing happens, then something its direct opposite happens.

MP Pasir Salak (Tajuddin Abdul Rahman) kicked up a fuss over the word ‘kamu’. Apparently during an earlier debate, someone used the word ‘kamu’ when referring to Tajuddin.

I don’t know about you, but I see nothing wrong with the word ‘kamu’. And because of this word, Tajuddin spent 10 minutes saying that the word ‘kamu’ was used ‘dengan niat jahat’. And because of that, Tajuddin called the opposition MP (I can’t seem to recall who it was..) ‘kurang ajar’.

The Speaker had such a hard time trying to calm these people down, and kept on asking Tajuddin to take back the use of ‘kurang ajar’. And Tajuddin actually said that if the other MP would ‘tarik balik’ the use of ‘kamu’, then he would also ‘tarik balik’ the use of ‘kurang ajar’.

Apparently, ‘kamu’ is not right, and you have to refer to him as Yang Berhormat.

Fine, whatever. A big fuss over something like this. Total waste of time. Even the Speaker is of the opinion that there’s nothing wrong with ‘kamu’, and that ‘kurang ajar’ is more unacceptable.

Then he goes on to use the word ‘stupid’ on MP Gopeng (Dr Lee Boon Chye). Again he got reprimanded by the Speaker and asked to ‘tarik balik’.

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I guess it’s fair to say that the quality of debates we get from our parliamentarians fulfill the entire scale, from constructive, to utterly rubbish.


Parliament: Of solar energy and dress codes

Today, Teresa Kok was among the MPs to present their argument in Parliament. She, as one would expect, spoke on the use of the ISA.

She made some other points that were very valid, I think, and worth that much thought. She touched on the use, or lack of use in this matter, of solar power in the country. She rightly puts it that in a country like Malaysia where sunlight is in abundance, one would imagine that solar is one of the alternative energy sources that we should be investing in.

Instead, we are hearing of the building of dams and more dams, and when there are no more rivers to be dam(n)ed, then comes the suggestion of going for nuclear power.

(Note of interest, in New Zealand where sunlight is practically worshipped because they get so little of it compared to tropical countries, they’re actually ‘chasing the sun’ to enhance solar heat gain. So it tickles me that we don’t appreciate and use what we have in abundance in Malaysia.)

She also rightly says that there are actually good solar panel manufacturers and companies in Malaysia, but whatever is produced is only exported out of the country, and not fully utilised even by Malaysia itself. Teresa suggests that perhaps incentives should be given to include solar panels, or at least solar hot water systems in future buildings and houses.

It is, of course, not in the best interest of the IPPs and construction companies who build the multi-million ringgit dams that we prioritise the use of solar energy. After all, solar energy basically translates into using less energy from the power suppliers, which means less profit.

But one must start thinking in terms of sustainability (I blame my course in architecture that’s banging me in the head with sustainable design), and of course, in the best interest of the society as a whole.

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On another note, Teresa was chided by MP from Bintulu (Tiong King Sing), if I’m not mistaken, for not wearing an overcoat in the House when debating. The Speaker (I think it was the Deputy) cleared things up when he clarified that the attire for women in the House is simply skirts that are below knee-length, and long-sleeved shirts. No need for an overcoat.

I admit, this is a petty issue. So petty that I shouldn’t even be writing about it. And so petty that Bintulu shouldn’t have interrupted Teresa’s flow. And this was almost at the end of Teresa’s speech!

And to be honest, I feel that this has sexist undertones as well. Women do seem to have it harder. Wherever they go and whatever they do, the first thing that is looked at is how they are dressed.

As long as she is dressed decently, there shouldn’t be a problem. And if there is an absolute need to interrupt, let it be conducive. Bring up points to contend. Don’t go for the clothes.

*Note: On this matter, I’m not happy with MP from Bukit Mertajam’s (Chong Eng) reaction either. She was just loud. And unconducive. (She’s not the only one, of course.)

Like what Patricia said, sometimes all of them just act like idiots, political affiliation aside. They’ve just got to start acting and behaving like they belong up there, representing us and debating on things that will influence our lives.