Opposition MPs Object to New Seating Arrangements in Dewan Rakyat

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A shouting match erupted in the Dewan Rakyat this morning over a trial of a new seating arrangement that aimed to create social distance to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Several Pakatan Harapan (PH) MPs complained that the new seating arrangement which placed some of them in the public gallery that used to be reserved for visitors made it difficult to pose questions and engage in debates as they had to walk a considerable distance to reach the microphones.

“Is this a way to curb debates from Pakatan Harapan MPs?

“I agree that we need to adhere to the health SOP, but don’t use it as a way to curb the debates. This is unfair,” Jelutong MP RSN Rayer told Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

He said opposition MPs had been seated at the speaker’s left on the first day of the sitting.

“The seating was comfortable but there were no mics or computers.

“Now we are seated at the public gallery, which is not comfortable,” he told speaker Azhar Harun.

FMT

“As for Barisan Nasional MPs, there is no social distancing,” he added. “I agree that health SOPs need to be followed, but don’t use that to curb access to the facilities given to us.”

Lawmakers Maria Chin Abdullah (Petaling Jaya-PH) and Thomas Su Keong Sing (Kampar-PH) echoed these sentiments.

However, Azhar said the changes were made following complaints as some MPs had been seated at blind spots where they were blocked by pillars.

He also said the seating arrangements had been made with “good intentions” so that everyone could see each other.

“I have placed as many mics as possible,” he said, adding that he had spoken to party heads before making the decision.

“I have consulted with the parties’ whips, we agreed to do a trial run for this week.

Bernama

“There is no intention of curbing voices,” Azhar said.

But Rayer asked why the seating arrangements of government MPs had not been changed.

“They (government MPs) can sit at their places. Why only the opposition seating? As a man of the law, I hope you will be fair,” he said, adding that the facilities at the public gallery were not conducive to debates.

Azhar assured him that he would look into the seating arrangements.

He said the seats could be revised again, but at a later date as it would take time to rearrange the microphones.

However, other PH MPs piped in and asked to be moved closer to their colleagues.

“There is ample seating there as not all Cabinet members attended the meeting everyday,” Kangar MP Noor Amin Ahmad said.

Some government backbenchers were not pleased by the fuss, leading to a brief shouting match.

Azhar ended the ruckus by promising to look into the seating arrangement and ordering the MPs to resume their debate on the King’s speech.

The new seating arrangement was announced this morning by Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon.