APRIL 7 — In a move that will have a monumental impact for the country, yesterday the Parliament passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) without any amendments. The vote was not even close: 79 for, 60 against.
Few doubt the return of detention without trial will go unabused. As we have seen with the Sedition dragnet of last year, and in the examples set forth by the Internal Security Act before it was repealed, provisions meant to combat militant activities often end up being applied to activists, journalists, members of civil society, and Opposition leaders.
Yet, despite the vigorous and repeated criticism of the bill, it was Pakatan lawmakers who failed to muster the numbers.
79 votes for the bill? But Pakatan Rakyat won 89 seats in the 2013 general election — now 86, after PKR sacked Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, after losing the Teluk Intan by-election previously held by DAP’s Seah Leong Peng, and most recently, after the sodomy conviction denying Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim his Permatang Pauh seat.
How is it that as many as 26 Pakatan lawmakers were absent from the Pota debate and vote? By any metric this is an embarrassment tantamount to betraying the rakyat’s trust: 31 per cent of Pakatan Rakyat’s presence in the Dewan Rakyat was not, in fact, present yesterday.
It is worth reminding these absentee MPs that they were elected to Parliament to represent the interests of their constituents, not their own.
No such example is made when these so-called Parliamentarians blatantly ignore the importance of giving their constituents their voice in debates of national significance, such as Pota.
By dropping the ball, these MPs forced their 60 attending colleagues to debate a bill that was a foregone conclusion.
It is to their credit that they maintained a tough fight with over 14 hours of debate, delaying the approval of POTA until 2.25am.
But will Pakatan Rakyat be able to challenge the all-too-frequent criticism that the pact prefers grandstanding to policy, now that a repressive law has returned — and will inevitably be used on dissenters from their side?
* Amirul Ruslan is a journalist who reads Malay Mail Online.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.