WHEN Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor landed at Parliament House, he was an instant celebrity.
MPs and Parliament staff reached out to greet the Angkasawan or to catch a glimpse of him at the banquet hall, where the Barisan Nasional backbenchers club hosted a luncheon in his honour on Monday. They clamoured for his autograph and to pose with him for photographs.
"It's historic and I am proud. He is an idol in some way," said Ampang MP Datuk Dr Rozaidah Talib.
The 44-year-old doctor said she wanted to be photographed with the Angkasawan to share the memory with her children and grandchildren.
Chipping in, Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim said Dr Sheikh Muszaphar was a good role model for young Malaysians.
"His feat in space is a story of 'nothing is impossible' if you focus on achieving your goals."
Sri Gading MP Datuk Mohamad Aziz brought his wife along to meet the space celebrity and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz had nothing but praise for the astronaut.
"He is a good role model for the young. He is humble, polite and not self-centred."
"Despite his new found fame, he is still pretty much on the ground. He talks about Malaysia and not about himself."
"That is why the MPs too are impressed with him," said Nazri.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, who played a major role in the national space mission, played second fiddle to the astronaut.
But he did not seem to mind being the "chaperon" for the country's first man in space; guiding him through the pack of admirers and cameramen and allowing him to take a few questions from the press before rushing him off to meet delegates of the Umno general assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre.
Besides the flurry and the excitement of meeting the country's newest hero, MPs were also incessantly shuttling between the Dewan Rakyat and the Umno general assemblies and the Deepavali open houses.
Besides that, it was business as usual at the august House, except that when the Dewan Rakyat was not sitting on Friday, a heavy downpour flooded part of the media centre.
Parliament officers had to call up the press, to get their representatives to check on whether any damage had been done to their computers.
During the sessions, there were the usual exchange of barbs between the Government and the opposition.
Nazri, the minister in charge of Parliament affairs, was present throughout the week to see that the sessions had the necessary quorum.
"We do not want to see a repeat of what happened last year," he said, referring to last year's Umno gathering which left the House with only 23 MPs – three short of the required quorum of 26 – at one juncture because close to 100 of the 219 MPs were from Umno.
The opposition put the heat on Nazri, with questions related to the Anti-Corruption Agency and whether ACA officials should refrain from accepting state awards given by the rulers.
"It is difficult to tell the sultans not to give awards," he told Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, who also suggested that the salaries of ACA officials be raised.
Nazri said it was unfair to single out the ACA as officers from the police, Immigration and Customs were also given such awards.
Datuk Idris Haron (BN – Tangga Batu) asked Lim whether the conferment of awards was seen as corruption, adding: “It is a recognition from the sultan or head of state to those who had served well.
"It must be clear to the (ACA) recipients that receiving awards can't stop them from investigations, if that is what they are supposed to do," he said, adding the awards also serve as a motivation for a job well done.
Nazri also locked horns with Karpal Singh (DAP – Bukit Gelugor), who raised the issue of former Dewan Rakyat deputy Speaker D.P. Vijandran.
Nazri said the former MP was being given his pension, according to the law, after he won his case in the Court of Appeal against a perjury charge.
Karpal Singh alleged that Vijandran was featured in a pornographic video and, therefore, had tarnished the image of MPs and should not deserve the pension.
Nazri did not stop Karpal Singh from harping on the issue, telling him: "Currently there is no law against those who mar the image of Parliament. But we can discuss it further."
"I can also refer the matter to the Attorney-General," he said, agreeing with the opposition member that, by right, such people do not deserve a pension.
The Dewan Rakyat resumes sitting tomorrow.