Missing MH370: Malaysia's parliament gripped by grief

Missing MH370: Malaysia's parliament gripped by grief

As with the nation and the entire world, lawmakers in the Dewan Rakyat were gripped by grief and mixed emotions over the mystery of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

In his royal address, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah also reached out to the families of the passengers and crew, expressing his deep concern over the missing plane and calling on those waiting for the return of their loved ones to remain calm and strong.

At the outset of the proceedings, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia said the House was saddened by the incident and Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club deputy chief Datuk Bung Mohktar Radin (BN - Kinabatangan), before submitting the first question for the day on March 11, called on the MPs to observe a minute's silence and pray for the missing aircraft to be found quickly.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak gave the assurance that all efforts were being taken by the Government to find the aircraft, with the cooperation of several countries, and offered the nation's sympathy to those affected by the incident.

Opposition MPs were absent, partly because of the nomination on the same day for the upcoming Kajang by-election and their dissatisfaction over the sodomy case verdict involving Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The next day, Deputy Speaker Datuk Ismail Mohamed Said rejected a motion by Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PAS - Pokok Sena) to debate on the disappearance of flight MH370, saying the incident was still under investigation.

The absence of the opposition lawmakers on Tuesday did not go unnoticed by their Barisan counterparts.

Backbenchers club chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Samad (BN - Johor Baru) described the opposition's boycott as irresponsible and against the best interest of voters who elected them to be their voice in Parliament.

Barisan MPs Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (Lenggong) and Datuk Seri Azlina Othman echoed similar sentiments, saying the opposition's absence was merely to show their dissatisfaction over Anwar's sodomy conviction.

When they returned to the House on Wednesday, the opposition MPs defended their stand, leading to a war of words between the two sides.

Shahrir and brother Khalid Samad (PAS - Shah Alam) crossed swords with Khalid claiming there was no separation of powers (among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government) and questioned the judiciary's independence.

As events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of MH370 unfurled, the opposition lawmakers accused the Government of poor handling of the multi-national search and rescue effort.

Outside the august house, however, China's ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang commended Malaysia's efforts to locate the plane and he gave his country's assurance the incident would not hamper Malaysia-China ties, which marks the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year.

Away from the MH370 debates, a noteworthy development was the announcement by parliamentary public accounts committee chairman Datuk Nur Jaslan Mohamed that an Accrual Based Accounting System is set to be implemented to make all ministerial directors-general accountable for their annual accounts.

The Dewan Rakyat resumes tomorrow with lawmakers expected to focus on the fate MH370 and the greatest mystery in aviation history.

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