When Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof assumes the mantle of the Dewan Rakyat Speaker tomorrow – as he is expected to – he will be given the chance to uplift the status of Parliament which has fallen to its lowest ebb, say experts.
Saying that he “best fit the bill” as the Speaker, constitutional law expert Emeritus Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said the former Court of Appeal judge was well known to be fair, no-nonsense and independent-minded.
“The last Parliament’s experience was extremely shameful in terms of the Speaker being impartial and fair.
“To have a man of his stature and reputation to helm an institution which, in my view, is at its lowest point since Merdeka, is the best thing to happen to Parliament,” said Dr Shad, who is a member of the Institutional Reform Committee that sits under the Council of Eminent Persons as well as the Tunku Abdul Rahman Professor of Law at Universiti Malaya.
The conduct of some MPs and the refusal of the previous Speaker to allow a debate on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, he said, had left much to be desired.
“I don’t think we have ever had a Parliament that has shown such impotence and disregard for the problems of society.
“We need a firm and fair hand to guide this Parliament as the grand inquest of the nation,” he said, adding that having a former judge was not new.
Tun Dr Mohamed Zahir Ismail, who was Speaker from 1982 to 2004, was a former High Court judge, he pointed out.
He said Mohamad Ariff, who at one point was an associate professor of law at Universiti Malaya, was also known to be a strong supporter of human rights.
Among his well-known rulings was in 2010 when as a Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge, he lifted the then Home Minister’s ban on a book entitled Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism.
He had ruled that the 215-page book was not a threat to public order in a judicial review application by Sisters in Islam (SIS) Forum (Malaysia).
Mohamad Ariff held that only seven of the 215 pages were said to have offended the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) guidelines and that the minister’s decision on July 2, 2008, was illegal and irrational when the book had been in circulation for over two years.
Dr Shad also said Mohamad Ariff had a deep knowledge of the Federal Constitution and other laws, allowing him to help MPs improve the quality and substance of their debates.
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Prof Sivamurugan Pandian said while some might question Mohamad Ariff’s inexperience in Dewan Rakyat, his former career as a judge would be useful in helping Parliament.
The coming Parliament meeting, he said, would see Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan switching roles for the first time.
“As a new Government, Pakatan must act the role, face the reality that they are now in control of all ministries and be ready to be held fully accountable,” he said.
Barisan, said Sivamurugan, would also have to learn how to be an Opposition.
“This means opposing not just for the sake of opposing but to also support government policies which they feel are good,” he added.
Asked about Mohamad Ariff, Lenggong MP and newly-appointed Umno information chief Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said the view of the party and Barisan Nasional would only be made known when Parliament began.
DAP parliamentary leader Anthony Loke also declined to comment.
Yesterday, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong confirmed that he had been put in charge of Parliament. – The Star
- 1974: Started his career as a law lecturer, subsequently an Associate Professor of the Law Faculty at University of Malaya
- 1986: Ventured into legal practice as an advocate and solicitor, one of the founding partners of Cheang & Ariff
- 1993-1995: First director of market supervision department of then newly formed Securities Commission of Malaysia
- September 2008: Judicial commissioner of High Court
- October 2009: High Court judge
- September 2012: Court of Appeal judge
- 2015: Retired
- Currently, Amanah’s disciplinary committee chief
- Father of five children