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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Conscience or Party Line? Take The Star poll

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The Star has started an online poll to gather opinions on whether Members of Parliament (MPs) should vote with their conscience or strictly along party lines.

This poll is partially as the result of Datuk Shahrir Samad's resignation as BN Back Benchers Club (BBC), over his support for an Opposition resolution. myAsylum will not get into the nitty-gritty of this latest political saga, but backgrounders can be found at many places. In particular, check out Sandiwara? Take the Teflon® Test (Part 6, and the other 5 parts) at Jeff Ooi's Screenshots, Aisehman's posts here and here, AND Brand New Malaysian's post.

But the real reason why this poll has emerged is Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's statement relating to the matter: "toe the line!" (see full Star article in the full post)

Pak Lah issues directive to all Barisan reps to toe the line


Toe the line. This is the order from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to all Barisan Nasional legislators when it comes to voting in Parliament.

Abdullah sent out this order after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting here yesterday.

He made the order following the controversial decision by former Backbenchers Club (BBC) chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad to support an Opposition motion to refer a Barisan MP to the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee.

Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusoff was said to have asked the Malacca Customs Department to “close one eye’’ over a timber consignment from Indonesia which had contravened regulations.

The other Barisan MPs, however, did not back Shahrir, who later resigned as BBC chairman.

Abdullah said even if Shahrir had not resigned, he would have been dropped from the position.

“But he (Shahrir) had already anticipated the action that would be taken against him, and so he resigned.”

Abdullah also said any move by the BBC to re-elect the Johor Baru MP as chairman would not be welcome.

“There is no need to pressure him into accepting the post back. He has made his decision and we should respect that,” he added.

The Prime Minister’s order puts paid to an appeal by a group of Barisan MPs yesterday to allow them to vote in Parliament according to their conscience on matters that do not affect the Government’s legislative position.

Abdullah, who is also Umno president, said this sort of voting was not possible for Barisan MPs because they must abide by party rules.

“Everyone knows the rules and not only must they understand them, they must also abide by them,” he said.

“There will not be any leniency (on the rules) or exception to anyone to do whatever he or she wishes,’’ he said.

When pointed out that democracies in developed countries such as the United States allowed representatives to support an Opposition motion, Abdullah replied: “We have our own democracy. We have survived on the basis of what we have been practising before, and we will continue with this practice.”

“That has not caused us to suffer any kind of problem. I still believe party discipline is very important, and all party members have to observe it.’’

Abdullah said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nazri Aziz would meet the BBC today to seek an explanation.

Earlier, before the Prime Minister's press conference, Shahrir, who is an Umno supreme council member, expressed to reporters his willingness to be re-elected as BBC chairman.

So, what do you think? Take the poll - and it will be interesting to see if the results get publishd or not. Walski has taken the poll and has said his piece... your turn to do so now!