Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof’s main mission, when he took up the Dewan Rakyat speaker’s job, was to ensure the institution would not be a rubber stamp for the government.
The 71-year-old was glad he could change the public’s perception of Parliament by making it more accessible to the people.
“When we started off, it was still looked upon as a rubber stamp but somehow we managed to change that thought a bit.
“That is why you have many visitors coming and wanting to learn about Parliament now,” Ariff told The Malaysian Insight.
His motivation was to serve the nation but was disappointed his tenure was shortened by political events.
The former Court of Appeal judge said internally, the introduction of the ministers’ question time was also a welcomed addition to the improved Dewan Rakyat.
“I worked remarkably well with the (Pakatan Harapan) ministers. There were reforms we wanted to introduce. Of course, they had their reservations, but we managed to persuade them.
“We managed to persuade then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that these reforms were good. That was why during the ministers’ question time, Dr Mahathir would come to answer questions himself,” Ariff said.
Among the other improvements were doing away with midnight or early morning sittings, tweaking question times and forming up to 10 select committees.
Internationally, Ariff said after the 14th general election, Malaysia received a lot of traction as being a symbol of democracy.
“People looked at us as a success story and it was beginning to show positive things. I cannot overstress inter-country diplomacy,” he said.
Ariff also commended lawmakers, especially the young ones, on improving the quality of debates instead of heckling and name-calling.
“Some are beginning to show good parliamentary behaviour. They are quoting numbers and facts to be answered by the ministers.
“However, there are some MPs who are always a nuisance and disrupt the lower house.
“They will refuse to leave the Dewan Rakyat or refuse to sit. They comprise a tiny minority, but they are in a position to cause commotion.”
Judging by events in the past two weeks, Ariff said it was worrying to have Parliament return to its dark days.
“Now, because of what has happened in the last two weeks, it seems to have fallen back to old habits.”
Last week, Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim made a snide remark directed at P Kasthuriraani’s (Batu Kawan-PH) skin colour.
He called her dark and recommended her to use talcum powder, triggering an uproar.
A day later, newly appointed Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun ordered Azeez to retract the statement and apologise. – TMI