Perak Speaker moves to prevent chaos

Written by Chan Kok Leong, The Edge 

Far from being the placid idyllic place this city is known as, yet another war is brewing in the hall where the state’s lawmakers meet.

Eight months after the state’s takeover by Barisan Nasional and despite the flurry of lawsuits and counter claims lodged in the courts, law and order continues to elude Perak’s legislative assembly.

With the chaos of May 7 still fresh in his mind, newly-appointed Speaker Datuk Ganesan Retanam is pulling out all the stops to prevent a repeat of the earlier sitting.

Besides replacing the sergeant-at-arms, Ganesan has also scheduled all arrivals to the Perak legislative assembly tomorrow morning.

The Perak sitting had been called by Ganesan as Barisan Nasional needs to pass the state’s budget for 2010. Ganesan’s counterpart and arch-nemesis V Sivakumar (Tronoh-DAP) had also issued notices to convene a sitting to pass the opposition’s state budget.

“I will use the authority vested in me as the Speaker to ensure peace and safety to everyone attending the sitting ,” said Ganesan during a press conference in his office in the Perak state government office yesterday.

According to Ganesan, a string of new rules will also take effect today to help him maintain calm in the legislative assembly.

“With the assistance of the state secretary, all those attending the sitting will enter the state government office and then the legislative assembly in accordance to a schedule,” he explained.

The schedule was divided into three groups.

The first group, consisting of government officers, invited guests and media personnel, will be allowed to enter the state office compounds from 9am onwards.

This group will then be allowed to enter the Perak legislative assembly from 9.30am.

Barisan Nasional state representatives are scheduled to enter the state office before 9.30am and must enter the legislative assembly before 9.55am.

Their counterparts from Pakatan Rakyat will only be allowed into the state office after 9.30am and then the legislative assembly after 9.55am.

Apart from the schedule, Ganesan said that state representatives cannot bring in any recording items such as cameras, video cameras, laptops or other media items into the assembly.

“The representatives must also not email or use their telephones to take pictures. These items must be left outside the hall,” he added.

He said that he has installed sufficient video cameras in the hall to “record each representative’s actions”.

“The recordings are to enable us to construct a better Hansard. It will also prevent the opposition from making false accusations later or confusing the public with the wrong sort of images,” Ganesan explained.

During the press conference, Ganesan alleged that it was the PR lawmakers who had crossed over to where the BN side to start the fracas which marked the  May 7 sitting.

“Besides assaulting the Menteri Besar [Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir] and deputy speaker [Hee Yit Foong], the PR representatives had broken 10 microphones and I couldn’t give proper instructions.

“They should know the Standing Orders but they have repeatedly disputed court decisions and appointments,” Ganesan lamented.

“They have even accused me of bringing thugs into the assembly.”

Pressing home his point, Ganesan said that Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham (Sitiawan-DAP) and Thomas Su (Pasir Pinji-DAP) had “broken into the state assembly and audio room”.

However, he did not elaborate on what the two DAP politicians were doing there.

During the question-and-answer session, Ganesan was asked if the newly appointed sergeants-at-arms were policemen.

“The new appointees are government security staff,” he answered without elaborating.

When asked why the PR representatives were scheduled to enter the assembly last, Ganesan said it was the Speaker’s prerogative.

The former Sungkai assemblyman repeated the answer when he was asked if the move was designed to prevent a tussle for seats in the assembly.

“It is the Speaker’s power to allocate seats and traditionally the government of the day and backbenchers sit on the right of the Speaker while the opposition is seated on the left.”

Despite the new arrangements, it is expected to be a busy day at the assembly.

And while the rest of Perak continues to go through the daily grind of putting sufficient food on the table, another round of controversy is likely to take place in its hallowed halls.

Neither BN nor PR state lawmakers are ready to back down from their claims of being the rightful government and leader of the assembly, to the detriment of the people of Perak.