When New Malaysia’s opposition decided to walk out over the appointment procedure of the Dewan Rakyat speaker, it was almost déjà vu of the old Malaysia.
Only that, the ones who walked out used to be the ones sitting on the other side of the bench. They were also the ones who condemned MPs who disrupt the august house by walking out.
The point of contention is newly appointed speaker, former Appeals Court judge Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, prepared his maiden speech with much advice for all, seemingly prescience on today's dramatic events.
Apabila mendengar akan khabar, menerimanya itu hendaklah sabar, Apabila mendengar akan aduan, membicarakannya itu hendaklah cemburuan
“Apabila mendengar akan khabar, menerimanya itu hendaklah sabar, Apabila mendengar akan aduan, membicarakannya itu hendaklah cemburuan (When you hear something new, receive it with patience, When you hear a complaint, discuss it not with others but with your conscience),” Ariff says.
The quote is from a traditional Malay literature dispensing decorum and respect when dealing with people.
Being an appeals court judge, Ariff knew he had to exercise delicate diplomacy on his first day, assuring MPs that he intends to run this august house respectfully and intelligently and he expects the same from the MPs of both sides.
As most of the opposition MPs staged the walkout, the cameras zoomed in on the opposition benches – focussing on the lone figure of Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin who chose to stay put.
Immediately, social media was abuzz with his image on WhatsApp, sitting all alone complete with the naughty caption "thought the party was in here."
The other prominent opposition MP who remained in the house with him was Datuk Anifah Aman of Kimanis.
Question is – were Khairy and Anifah not informed beforehand of the proposed walkout and for them to act in unison?
If they had chosen to defy in their personal capacity, what statement were these two trying to make? – that they were independent-minded and did not want to be seen to be following the party line blindly?
Long press statements on the walkout from the opposition, Kuala Nerus MP Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali of PAS, was automatically distributed online, likely to have been prepared way in advance.
The staged walkout was in protest to the swearing in of the new Speaker of Dewan Rakyat Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof - Bernama Photo
Khairy later explained to the media that he stayed on because he felt that it was not the right thing to do as they were not sworn in yet as MPs and doing so would be a stain on the image of Barisan Nasional as a responsible opposition.
As for the Pakatan Harapan MPs, they could only watch and wonder if everything else to follow on the other side would be a mirror of their past. After all, this is only the first day of a new Dewan Rakyat.
For the public watching the live telecast waiting in anticipation of Malaysia Baharu, this walkout and the subsequent quiet return by the opposition was only to be expected – only that they did not think it would happen so soon into the life of this new parliament.
All eyes will be on Ariff the Speaker to ensure that the Dewan Rakyat will not be abused by MPs to organise rowdy publicity stunts but be the platform to change the country for the better where elected representatives uphold the Federal Constitution.