Bersih 2.0 Calls for Ariff to Remain Speaker, Parliamentary Reforms to Continue

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Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has urged federal lawmakers to reject the government’s motions to remove Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and his deputy, Nga Kor Ming.

Its steering committee said removing the Speaker mid-term was unprecedented in the country, since the position is usually only vacated either when Parliament is dissolved or the incumbent either resigns or dies.

“By convention, the House Speaker of a Westminster Parliament should be above partisan politics. If he or she is an MP, upon election by fellow MPs, must retire from party politics to function as the impartial presiding official in the House,” it said in a statement.

“As the Speaker in Malaysia has traditionally functioned as gatekeepers for the executive branch of the government by blocking motions or Bills tabled by the Opposition or even restricting speeches, this has greatly undermined the impartiality of the office.

“Speaker Ariff, who is not an MP and has retired from party politics since his appointment at the start of the 14th Parliament in 2018, has transformed his office with impartiality and a genuine appreciation for multi partisanship.

“As citizens and taxpayers, we pay RM 44 million a year in monthly allowance alone, including RM 16,000 for MPs, RM 31,000 for the Speaker and RM 22,000 for deputy speakers, to maintain the Dewan Rakyat. With the Covid-19 outbreak and a global recession, we cannot afford for the Dewan Rakyat to be reduced to being an RM44 million-a-year white elephant or a mere rubber-stamp of the Executive,” said the committee.

In calling for the MPs to reject the termination motion, Bersih 2.0 also urged them to rally behind Ariff and continue the unprecedented reforms that have taken place under his term.

“This includes the formation of 10 cross-party Select Committees that have oversight over policy and finance of a particular ministry and have the power to summon persons, records and documents, allowing government backbenchers and Opposition members to play a meaningful role in law-making, policy formulation and scrutiny of government functions.

“Another is the appointment of an Opposition MP to chair the powerful Public Accounts Committee, which has empowered the Opposition to play an effective check and balance role in Parliament,” it said.

“The reforms under Ariff have also resulted in Parliament as a more people-centric and friendly institution, which has organised events in collaboration with local and international organizations to advance debates on democracy and human rights, besides easy access for academics, students and members of civil society.

“More reforms ought to be introduced, including an independent Parliamentary Service so that its staff is not controlled by the Executive, and the recognition of the main opposition’s Shadow Cabinet in resource and access to government information.

“Others include a weekly Prime Minister’s Questioning Time so that the Chief Executive is personally answerable to the House, and special slots for ‘non-governmental business’ and ‘private members’ bills’ so that the Opposition and government backbenchers can play more constructive roles,” said the committee.

Claiming that the other Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon was aligned with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and unaffected by the motion, Bersih 2.0 also called upon the public to support the retention of Ariff as the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat by signing its online petition at https://www.change.org/KekalkanAriff

On Sunday, Ariff confirmed receiving the motions proposing to terminate him as Dewan Rakyat Speaker and Nga as his deputy. He said both motions were adopted in accordance with common practice and in accordance with Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders without prejudice. – MMO