Former Speaker calls for reform in Dewan Rakyat rules

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Confidence vote for PM a must if Malaysia to have stability.

The duty of a Dewan Rakyat Speaker is to maintain the decorum of the Lower House of Parliament, Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff  Md Yusof said in an interview with Malaysiakini.

The retired judge who served as Speaker from 2018 to 2020 said the job did not include defending members of the Cabinet or deputy ministers.

“As a Speaker, I did not jump into the arena. I did not defend ministers or deputy ministers or, for that matter, the prime minister.

“The Speaker is not there to defend the Cabinet; the speaker is there to maintain the decorum of the House.

“To act as an impartial arbiter, to give everyone time to speak and debate according to the rules,” he was quoted as saying in the interview published today.

Ariff made the remark when asked to assess his successor Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun.

He did not give an assessment but instead shared what he did not do as a Speaker.

Among the proposed reforms that have been making headlines, Ariff said he was looking forward to seeing the introduction of the anti-party hopping law.

He said institutional reforms were needed to give Malaysia political stability.

The author of newly released book Parliament, Unexpected also said Malaysians deserve better political leaders.

“I think we deserve more. That is what I am trying to say between the lines of the closing chapter [of the book]. We deserve more.

“We do not deserve the current political condition in Malaysia. I think we are too smart to allow this sort of thing to be tolerated to no end.

“We deserve expertise, leadership and statesmanship instead of mediocrity and power hunger,” he told Malaysiakini.

According to Ariff, another reform that Malaysia sorely needs is an amendment to the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders that enables a confidence motion in support of the prime minister.

He said the confidence vote in the Lower House of Parliament must be given priority if Malaysia is to have political stability.

“There must be a vote of confidence in the House. It has to be tested in the House,” he was quoted as saying.

While he agrees that a confidence motion on the PM should properly be confirmed in the Dewan Rakyat, Ariff defended his February 2020 rejection of Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s request for a special sitting on March 2 to select the prime minister, and for which he had been highly criticised.

Ariff told Malaysiakini that his decision back then was based on the existing rules.

As such, he argued for the need to reform the Standing Orders.

“We cannot live with the current provisions. The politicians will play around with it and then condemn the speaker for accepting the motion.

“The rules must now be changed — or otherwise, you will never achieve stability,” Ariff was quoted as saying.

To date, none of the MPs appointed as prime minister after Dr Mahathir, whether Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin nor Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, have had their majority support tested in a vote in the Dewan Rakyat.

In the interview, Ariff expressed his disappointment in the way Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon whom he had delegated the job of chairing the debate for his removal on July 13, 2020, handled the situation.

“I thought he would have learned proper parliamentary procedures by then. But obviously, he did not.

“He should have given time [for the debate]. You should not insist that whatever you decide is final on such an important matter.

“I was very disappointed with Rashid. I handed over the reins to him to conduct the proceedings in a way I thought he would — fairly, equitably and by proper parliamentary procedure. But he did not,” Ariff was quoted as saying

The move sparked heated arguments in the Dewan Rakyat among Opposition MPs which lasted until the sitting ended abruptly in the evening at 3.30pm.

On that day as well, his deputy, Nga Kor Ming, had also made a decision to step down in solidarity with Ariff.