KUALA LUMPUR: The debate on the Anti-Fake News Act reached boiling point today when a deputy minister was forced to stop from finishing his winding-up speech on the bill to repeal the law at the Dewan Rakyat after making a sexist remark.
Delivering a joke in bad taste, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said: “When I saw you, I get confused whether you are a man or woman” in response to a question by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (BN-Umno-Pengerang).
Azalina, a former minister, had earlier sought clarification on Singapore’s Anti-Fake News law.
Almost immediately, Hanipa apologised and retracted his words, amid angry shouts by opposition MPs.
Several MPs, including Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (Pas-Kubang Kerian) and Che Abdullah Mat Nawi (Pas-Tumpat), called for the deputy minister to stop his speech and for the house to proceed to bloc voting.
Others were heard yelling ”jawab, jawab!”, drowning Hanipa out in his attempt to continue speaking.
In response, deputy speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon asked Hanipa to conclude, 40 minutes into his speech.
Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof then stepped in for the voting process while MPs from both sides of the divide continued taking jabs at each other.
The lower house voted 93 to 53 to approve the bill, which saw 25 members of parliament participate in the two-day debate.
Hanipa had earlier said the government was steadfast in its stance to repeal the Act, which “was enacted in haste” by the previous government.
“However, this does not mean that we do not view fake news seriously.
“As a government which upholds the integrity of Federal Constitution, we are committed in our efforts to repeal the law despite facing challenges.
“Just as we don’t want to see people fall prey to fake news, we wouldn’t want to see anyone becoming victims to the Act which is deemed as a draconian law,” he said in his winding-up speech on the bill.
Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad (BN-Umno-Parit Sulong) interjected and asked why it was necessary to repeal the law, instead of amending it.
“There are various laws, namely the Penal Code, Printing Presses and Publication Act; and Communications and Multimedia Act, that have provisions to fight fake news, thus amendments should be made on those laws instead.
“You were the one who made the mistake (by enacting Anti-Fake News Act), not us,” said Hanipa.
Despite being tabled for the second time, the bill was met with much enthusiasm, with some opposition members calling for the Act to be retained.
Previous attempts by the government to repeal the Act hit a snag when the bill failed to get approval from the Dewan Negara after being passed by the lower House.
The bill to repeal the Act was re-tabled after the end of the one-year cooling-off period under Article 68 of the Federal Constitution.