What’s that ‘matter of principle’, Ramkarpal? — Hafiz Hassan

JULY 19 — The British House of Commons’ Traditions and Customs of the House: House of Commons Background Paper ought to be a must read for our lawmakers. The paper, which is to provide information to Members of Parliament (MP) in support of their parliamentary duties, should be useful to our MPs too.

On unparliamentary language, for example, our MPs will be informed that it breaks the rules of politeness in the House. Words and expressions used in the House must conform to a number of rules. It is said that “good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language.” (Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, 24th ed)

The Speaker of the House of Commons will direct an MP who has used an unparliamnetary language or word to withdraw it. Over the years, Speakers of the House have called MPs to order with regard both to individual words (which are insulting, coarse or abusive) and to sentences and constructions (which contain, for example, charges of lying or being drunk).

Among the words to which Speakers have objected over the years have been blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor.

If the word “samseng” is to be translated in English as “gangster”, would that not be synonymous with “hooligan”? And hooligan is an unparliamentary word.

So, what’s the principle for not retracting the “gangster” remark?

Perhaps Ramkarpal can learn from the ingenuity of some British MPs in circumventing the rule on unparliamentary language, for example that of one Mr Dalyell:

Mr Dalyell: As the captain of the Conqueror has said in print that he was following the General Belgrano for at least 30 hours and the Government persist in claiming that the General Belgrano was detected on the same day as it was sunk, who is telling the truth or, bluntly, is it the submarine commander or the Prime Minister who is lying? (Emphasis added)

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Member must not use that word (lying). I am sure that he will rephrase that final comment.

Mr Dalyell: Is it the submarine commander or the Prime Minister who is telling the truth? (Emphasis added)

Ramkarpal should be able to replace the word “gangster” with one that would be parliamentary.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.