A third deputy speaker’s position should not be created solely for the purpose of political expediency but as part of Parliament’s institutional reforms, Nga Kor Ming said.
The Teluk Intan MP said the new post must come with the setting up of a second chamber to better manage the time spent in Parliament debating issues.
“If they are serious, this must come with a series of reforms. Do not just create a post out of political expediency, it is inappropriate,” Nga told The Malaysian Insight.
“It must be justified and come with a package of reforms. That means that the government must agree to set up a second chamber that sits concurrently with the main chamber.”
Nga, who was a deputy Dewan Rakyat speaker under the Pakatan Harapan administration, said this is in line with his proposed 10 reforms to be carried out if he is elected as deputy speaker of the Dewan Rakyat.
The post was vacated by Umno’s Azalina Othman Said, who has now been appointed special adviser for law and human rights to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Last month, law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the government is looking to create a third deputy Dewan Rakyat speaker’s position, which can be filled by an opposition MP.
The move requires an amendment to Article 57(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution to allow for the appointment of deputy speaker to be increased from two to three.
However, Perikatan Nasional, which had been silent on the proposal, yesterday issued a statement saying it is not needed.
Its chairman, Muhyiddin Yassin, said a third deputy speaker is not one of the terms in the government’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).
“Perikatan Nasional is of the opinion that the cooperation between the government and the opposition is only limited to issues agreed upon in the MOU of transformation and political stability signed by the prime minister and PH on September 13,” Muhyiddin said in a statement
“Amending the constitution to add the role of a third deputy speaker was not agreed upon in the MOU. Therefore, it is not fair for any party to demand that this be executed.”
However, it did not propose any solution to how Parliament and the government should move ahead with the idea mooted by the Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration.
Nga felt that the third deputy speaker will go well with any parliamentary reform and help the administration deal with issues better.
“Now, our current system is a Sabah MP will talk about a road in Tuaran and a Johor Baru MP is sitting there listening to his Tuaran problem,” he said.
“Isn’t it a waste of time? Why don’t you just raise it in the second chamber, and you get a minister to listen and offer you a solution.
“The people will benefit because when the MP raises an issue in the second chamber, you have an administrator who handles it specifically and settles it on the spot while the main chamber’s time will only be used for deliberating national policies.”
Nga said in the event the government creates the third deputy speaker’s post, it is not for his benefit but rather for all dissenting voices.
“This post is not for me, but for the opposition bloc, the dissenting voices. Whoever is in the government in future will have to practise this. It is not a post created for an individual,” he said.
“It shows that Parliament is not part of the executive, it is independent. Therefore, it can allow an opposition member to be the deputy speaker.”
On Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun’s decision not to appoint him the deputy speaker recently, Nga confirmed that the change of mind was indeed due to political interference.
On September 20, Nga said Azhar had called him to his chamber and told him that based on his track record and experience, he was an appropriate choice for the post of deputy speaker.
While he was getting ready to put on his robe, he was told that the speaker had changed his mind.
“I will not reveal the identity of the individual, but I do feel that it was uncalled for and went against the spirit of the memorandum of understanding,” he said.
“Some of the ministers were also surprised as to why the senior minister got involved, because to me, it is an abuse of power.
“It is the prerogative of the speaker to decide which MP is suitable. It is not the minister’s business to interfere and override the speaker’s power.
“It’s not a trivial matter; it speaks volumes on how the house has been treated. Parliament deserves better. The minister has no right or jurisdiction to override the speaker. Respect must be given to the institution.”
He said if the decision to allow an opposition MP to be appointed deputy speaker is such an uphill task, the reforms agreed upon in the MOU between the government and PH will face a bigger challenge.
He said it is important to have political will and without it and magnanimity, even with the MOU, there will be a lot of obstacles.
The MOU on transformation and political stability was signed by the prime minister, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and Upko president Wilfred Madius Tangau on September 13.
The MOU has six thrusts – strengthening the country’s Covid-19 plan, institutional transformation, parliamentary reforms, judiciary independence, the Malaysia Agreement 1963, and the formation of the steering committee.
Under the deal, the government has promised to deliver three major reforms by the middle of next year, before the next or fifth session of Parliament.
They are the anti-party hopping law, the implementation of Undi18 and automatic voter registration, and the imposition of a 10-year term limit on the prime minister’s tenure.
Various parliamentary reforms are also in the agreement, such as the parliamentary services bills – which seek to restore Parliament’s autonomy in its finances and administration – ensuring a balanced representation of government and opposition lawmakers in select committees and ensuring an equal number of select committees are chaired by government and opposition MPs. – TMI