Speaker Azhar: No debate on floods

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Opposition members of parliament today slammed Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun for stopping the Lower House from discussing the current massive floods that hit the country and its people.

“We only have one agenda today, that is the debate on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act,” Azhar told Dewan Rakyat today.

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“It is also up to the minister to decide when they want to do a briefing and then inform me. This is how it is done.

“We have to follow the rules and not jump from issue to issue,” he said in response to Lim Guan Eng (Bagan-PH), Ahmad Maslan (Pontian-BN), and Mohamad Sabu (Kota Raja-PH), who requested the floods be opened for debate.

“We want the minister to tell us what is being done in the flood issue. As MPs, we are shocked by the number of people who have had to climb onto their roofs to escape the floods in Klang Valley,” Lim said.

Azhar rejected the calls and moved on to the amendment bill, which was subsequently postponed. The Dewan Rakyat was prorogued at 11.35am.

During a media conference in Parliament, opposition parliamentarians expressed disappointment over Azhar’s ruling where the latter said he did not have the power to allow such a debate to take place since the House had another matter to discuss.

However, Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai) pointed out that as the Speaker of the House, Azhar possessed the discretion to allow an eleventh-hour debate that affects the public, especially matters concerning natural disasters.

“We are very disappointed. Not only did opposition MPs want answers on this issue, but government MPs wanted to know too. Pontian MP (Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan) too, stood up asking for clarification.

“We stood up and were asking questions (in the House) but he (Azhar) said no, switched off our microphones, and told us to sit down, instead.

“Shall we wait for the Speaker’s house to be flooded before we can have a debate on this in the House?

“I know the question sounds harsh and firm, but the issue here is, are we not going to look at this issue as a serious matter?” he said.

Khalid Samad (PH-Shah Alam) who was also present at the press conference said the Dewan Rakyat had let the public down by refusing to speak on the flood issue.

He said the Lower House was the perfect platform for the country to do a quick post-mortem on what had happened in the past few days.

At the same time, Khalid also said that ministers in charge of managing natural disasters should’ve stood up in the House to give quick comments on the current situation.

“The first issue is why was there no early warning? The Meteorological Department had already sent out a warning that the weather will be bad, which brings us to the second issue which is, why were there no preparations made?

“We need to do a post-mortem and Dewan Rakyat was the golden opportunity for us to do so. Don’t talk about the RM100 million allocation yet.

“Right now, we and the people want an immediate response, not the money yet. The money is needed for post-floods, for when the people need money for repairs and such.

“The existing flood evacuation centres don’t even have enough facilities. Where’s the food? Where are the tents, mattresses, and pillows? Do we expect the victims to sleep on the floor?” Khalid said.

Earlier in the House, Ahmad had questioned how soon the government planned to channel the RM1,000 assistance to each family affected by the floods.

Mohamad Sabu (PH-Kota Raja) then interjected and said that the most pressing matter at the moment was not on financial assistance but to step up rescue efforts.

“Where are the boats from the army, fire department, and police? It was fishermen who came to offer their boats, but they were not suited for flood rescue operations because the bottom part of their boats is bigger,” he said.

Datuk Seri Azizah Mohd Dun (PN-Beaufort) then shouted while saying that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) had already offered RM100 million and that MPs should be the ones to offer their assistance.