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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Feeling the GST heat in the House

Published: Sunday October 27, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM 
Updated: Sunday October 27, 2013 MYT 1:06:35 PM

AMID the tense debates on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and amendments to the Penal Code, there were some light moments in between the heated exchanges in the august House.

Notably was the response by Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said to queries by Sim Tze Tzin (PKR - Bayan Baru) on the proposed changes to the rape laws.

Sim asked whether the amendments covered transvestites or transgenders, although they were listed as males in their MyKad.

“It doesn’t matter what it says in your IC (identity card) whether you are male or female.

“It’s about whether you have it ‘down there’ or not,” the trained lawyer said in a matter-of-fact manner, to roars of laughter from the lawmakers in the House.

However, Deputy Speaker Datuk Ismail Mohamed Said was not amused and advised lawmakers against carrying on with such banter as there were visiting secondary schoolchildren in the public gallery watching them.

It was another milestone for lawmakers in the Dewan Rakyat and for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s ongoing transformation initiatives, following his announcement of Budget 2014, which included the much anticipated (and dreaded among the Opposition) GST.

Owing to continued concerns, a 17-month cushioning period was given for adjustments to be made by stakeholders and the rakyat when the GST begins in April 2015.

Opposition lawmakers in the media-frenzied Parliament lobby were critical of the Budget and the GST in particular, which Oppo­sition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said benefits the rich rather than the poor.

In a rare show of protest by Barisan MPs, Azalina and Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN - Kinabatangan) joined the chorus of criticisms against the amendments to the Penal Code.

Opposition lawmakers, on Monday, voiced their concern over the removal of judges discretion in the sentencing of offenders for sexual crimes and those related to vandalism and the defiling of the Jalur Gemilang.

On Tuesday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nancy Shukri announced the proposed Clauses 5 and 33 that called for mandatory jail sentences for vandalism and insult to the national flag were withdrawn.

On Thursday, Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee ruled that the next five remaining weeks of the parliamentary sessions would be for debates on the Budget.

From tomorrow, the House is likely to see more heat in both the parliamentary chamber and in the lobby, particularly over the GST.

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