Ramkarpal calls Azhar a ‘disgrace, government lapdog’

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Azhar questioned for not allowing Parliament to sit and approve the Emergency Proclamation and its ordinances before it was announced on January 11.

After about an hour of opposition MPs expressing their disagreement and discontent on the first day of the special parliamentary sitting this morning, Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun shut them down by ruling against “everything” they said.

“Sit down. Because none of you MPs want to listen to me, I only have one thing to say. I do not agree with everything you said. Let us continue,” an enraged Azhar said after he tried to deliver a ruling on the arguments made by the MPs but was constantly interrupted.

In response, a chorus of “We don’t agree with you,” arose from the opposition.

Earlier, Ramkarpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor) caused an uproar this morning by asking Azhar if he was “a government lapdog”, over his decision not to table the Emergency Ordinance in the Dewan Rakyat.

Azhar should resign for allowing the government to usurp Parliament’s powers, Ramkarpal said.

“Why didn’t you allow the Emergency Proclamation and the ordinances to be brought to Parliament?” he said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

“You were also a lawyer. You understand that the ordinance and proclamation of emergency must be brought to Parliament.

“The Speaker must understand rules that regulate the House, and that it cannot supersede the Constitution.

“Are you a government lapdog?” Ramkarpal then asked, causing a stir among government MPs.

“You have disgraced Parliament and are not fit to sit in that chair. You should resign as the Dewan Rakyat speaker.

“Have you been instructed by the government not to bring these matters to Parliament. If this is your agenda, resign or we will submit a motion for you to relinquish your seat,” said the Pakatan Harapan MP.

Ramkarpal and several opposition MPs were questioning Azhar for not allowing Parliament to sit and approve the Emergency Proclamation and its ordinances before it was announced on January 11.

In response, Azhar said that the special sitting was held under Standing Order 11 (3).

“Under this, the prime minister will inform me to have a sitting. The agenda shall be determined by the prime minister. It is very specific,” he said.

However, Ramkarpal persisted, asking if the Standing Order 11 (3) supercedes the constitution.

Previously, the speaker rejected five motions submitted by Anwar Ibrahim (Harapan-Port Dickson) and Ngeh Koo Ham (Harapan-Beruas), which, among others, called for a debate on the emergency and its annulment.

Salahuddin Ayub (PH-Pulai) then weighed in, telling the Speaker that he was misleading the House.

“The King decreed to the prime minister to debate the emergency ordinance in the Dewan Rakyat,” he said. “What kind of parliament is this? A parliament session must have debates. You have misled the House by rejecting the Agong’s decree for parliament to sit,” he said.

Gobind Singh Deo (PH-Puchong) said voting was crucial to gauge if the government had failed in its efforts to control Covid-19 despite the Emergency being in place.

“If the government has failed, then it means the prime minister has failed too,” he added.

Gobind added that the sitting should have been held earlier and not now when the number of daily cases had breached 17,000 (as of yesterday).

He also asked the Speaker to cite the Standing Order under which a limit could be placed on the number of MPs in the House.

“The prime minister needs to show he has the majority but if MPs are limited (to attend) than how can we show there is a majority.

“This should not be allowed as it will only show that the prime minister does not have the majority support,” Gobind said.

William Leong (PH-Selayang) called for motions to be tabled to allow MPs to vote, including on the Emergency.

“The role of Parliament will otherwise be destroyed. Speaker, I hope you know what you are doing. You are also a lawyer,” Leong said.

Shafie Apdal (Warisan-Semporna) also questioned the reason not to allow MPs to vote on the Emergency.

“Why no voting and debates during this sitting. The Emergency must be debated and voted on,” he said.

Earlier, Shafie questioned if the government was following the Federal Constitution in calling for today’s special sitting.

“I want an explanation. Is this special sitting in line with the Agong’s decree? Is this special sitting following our constitution?”

Steven Sim (PH-Bayan Baru) said the Speaker has the responsibility to ensure the law and the King’s decree to have a proper Parliament sitting is followed.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said if the government wanted to inform MPs of a particular matter, it could issue a White Paper instead of holding a five-day sitting to explain the recovery plan.

“There is a need to debate the suffering the Rakyat is enduring, but this is not part of the agenda.

“For five days we will listen to the ministers explain their plans which has been ineffective. Since announcing the plans, the cases have surged,” he added.

“When do we start talking about how we are going to overcome the pandemic?”

Dr Mahathir (Pejuang-Langkawi) also took the Perikatan Nasional government to task for not allowing Parliament to meet sooner.

“This is not a Parliament meeting as requested by the Conference of Rulers and Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah. We understand that the King has instructed that Parliament sit as soon as possible but the government has not done this.

“Thousands are infected each day, while deaths are in the hundreds. The Agong instructed Parliament to meet because of the problems but the government took a long time and try to trick the world by holding a briefing and calling it a sitting,” said the 96-year-old MP.

Instead of letting Parliament debate the national recovery plan, Dr Mahathir said the government is holding a briefing instead.

“We don’t want a briefing but want to debate what to do. Yet, this is not included in the Order Paper. Are we supposed to listen to their plan, which has been proven ineffective,” said Dr Mahathir.

“About 200 people are dying in a day now. Shall we wait for 1,000 deaths a day before we finally take it seriously and start looking for ways to address the current problems?” he added.

Other MPs who have also asked why they are not allowed to debate the Emergency Proclamation were Mahfuz Omar (PH-Pokok Sena) and Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru).

According to Article 150(3) of the federal constitution, the Emergency Proclamation and its ordinances must be approved by Parliament.

Following the Emergency Proclamation on January 11, Parliament is meeting for the first time this year for a special meeting from July 26 till August 2

Although the government has allowed Parliament to meet again, it has not slotted the Emergency Proclamation and its ordinances for debate.

After almost an hour, law minister Takiyuddin Hassan (PN-Kota Bharu) stood up to give his take on the issues raised.

“Our standing order is part of the constitution. In the context of Parliament this is normal. In 2009, a special sitting was held on the Israeli invasion,” Takiyuddin said.

But the opposition MPs were unhappy, with Gobind demanding to know the reason for not allowing any voting.

According to the agenda for the special five-day Dewan Rakyat sitting, the prime minister and relevant ministers will be briefing the House. This will be followed by a question-and-answer session where MPs can seek further explanations and give their views on the matter.