Azalina: Appoint opposition MP as deputy speaker

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Former Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said today mooted that her seat should be filled by an opposition MP.

The Pengerang Umno MP, who stepped down from the post several days ago, said that this would be the best opportunity for newly-minted Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to “get the ball rolling” for parliamentary reform.

According to Azalina, the motion to appoint her replacement should also come from the government.

“…should be replaced by an opposition member, but the motion must be by the government.

“If the motion is by the opposition, then there will be another round of vote of confidence. Fight, fight and fight. This is the best opportunity for the prime minister…to offer that as a gesture to start the ball rolling.

“Because as I said on the timing of the reform…reform is going to take time, it’s not gonna happen in one day sitting, because there are a lot of negotiations with stakeholders.

“But this is something that is achievable,” she told a webinar on parliamentary reform agenda this morning.

Azalina was speaking at a webinar titled ‘A Roadmap for Parliamentary Reform For and Beyond the Pandemic’ organised by Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia.

Azalina on Monday confirmed that she has tendered her resignation as the deputy speaker, a post she had been holding since last year, citing several reasons behind her decision.

The former law minister also said that such a move by the government would also create a history in the country’s parliamentary democracy.

“If the government does that, and if it is supported unanimously…I think (it) will be fantastic for our parliamentary history.

“Because we are showing gesture that we want the Parliament to be a professional platform,” said Azalina.

Yesterday, Ismail Sabri, who was sworn in as the country’s ninth prime minister, held a meeting with opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim and two other leaders from opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan where they agreed to strengthen the parliamentary institution.

However, some were said to be unhappy with the gesture, including on the part of the opposition in responding positively to the new prime minister.

Answering a question from the webinar audience on this, Azalina stressed that it is crucial for all politicians to have a “ceasefire” at this juncture.

“If we are serious about the road to recovery, we all must join hands and cease fire for the sake of the nation,” she said.

Azalina also said that MPs from across the divide cannot be hostile against each other all the time, including in the Dewan Rakyat.

“It is important for political party leaders and the different blocs to work together in “great continuous engagement,” she added.

Meanwhile, speaking on her experience as a deputy speaker, Azalina said that she wished that she could let all the MPs talk without being bound by time limit.

She said the country’s parliamentary calendar is a short one, and there are so many issues that MPs need to raise.

“If I have my way, cheekily, I would have all the MPs talk, and I would do it night to dawn, dawn to night.

“I’ll do it. I will just let them talk non-stop because I want to allow everyone to have that privilege to represent their constituency.

“Because our sitting is not like in the UK where it is like three-quarters of the year. Our sitting is a very short time on the calendar, and I know they have a lot to say.”

During the webinar, Azalina had also presented seven proposals for a parliamentary reform agenda, which she regarded as her wishlist.

Among them are to review the impartiality and accountability of a speaker – where she mooted that a speaker be appointed by a voting process in the Dewan Rakyat – strengthening and expanding the Parliament’s capacity with separate parliamentary services, including its own budget allocation; and that motions on vote of confidence be given priority over government business. – Malaysiakini