Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, better known as Art Harun, said he has no regrets over accepting his new role as the Dewan Rakyat Speaker despite criticism hurled at him by the opposition bloc.
He said this when asked if he regretted accepting the position following the intense arguments he had to preside over in the Lower House on what was his first day on the job.
“That’s not a zoo. That’s our Dewan. This was a good experience for me, and we learn from experience, so no (regrets).
“I think this is an honour for my family and I. It is a challenge and I see this as a way for me to serve the nation,” he told a press conference at the Parliament building today after he accepted the motion to end today’s session early.
This marks the first full parliamentary sitting since Perikatan Nasional took over Putrajaya. The session will last for 25 days until Aug 27.
Asked if he was instructed to take over the Speaker job, Azhar replied in the negative, saying he had received an invitation by the government to take up the job.
He said he received the invitation before the Chini by-election nomination day (June 20), adding that he only resigned as the Election Commission chief upon deciding to accept the Speaker job.
He said that he would try his best to control the atmosphere in the Dewan Rakyat and its members.
“We will defend the Standing Order and it is my job together with my deputies to control the Dewan Rakyat.
“If they (MPs) want to continue to behave that way (in an unruly manner), let them because the public is watching. We will try our best to control the situation,” he said.
During the press conference, Azhar also voiced his gratitude to his predecessor, former Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff over the latter’s contributions to the Dewan Rakyat throughout his two-year tenure.
Azhar said Ariff was his lecturer back in university and also his partner in a law firm they both worked at before.
“The Parliament is indebted to Ariff for all his services and contributions towards the process of parliamentary reform.
“I will continue the reform agenda, repair what needs to be repaired and come up with a new agenda if there are any improvements that we can include in the current parliamentary reform agenda,” he said.
Azhar also said he has no authority to move up Langkawi Member of Parliament Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the Parliamentary Order Paper.
The motion, which was inserted as item 27 in the Order Paper, was submitted by Dr Mahathir weeks before today’s Dewan Rakyat sitting began.
“I don’t have the authority to move it up. The previous speaker inserted it as item number 27 and so we (the Speaker’s office) will deal with it when we come to it,” he said.
Azhar also explained that the process of appointing him as the Speaker was made in accordance with the Parliamentary Standing Order (SO).
“According to the SO, if there is only one name nominated, there is no need for voting by MPs. A simple voice vote is sufficient.
“The thing is, the opposition MPs didn’t nominate any other names,” he said.
Reporters then asked him to explain claims made by the opposition bloc who said that they were not informed about the nomination of a new speaker.
Opposition leaders had recently said this was the reason they didn’t submit a name as they were not given sufficient time to do so.
For the record, the SO states that a new name can be nominated as the new Speaker as long as the motion for the nomination is submitted 14 days before the Dewan Rakyat convenes.
Azhar said the opposition’s claims that they did not know of the development was questionable.
“The motion to nominate a new Speaker was reported in the media. It was already in the public domain, so how can they not know about it?
“Besides, according to the SO, there is no need to issue a notice and anyone can be nominated,” he said.