Speaker Azhar Denies Being Bias in Dewan Rakyat

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Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun today said he has never been biased nor favoured Perikatan Nasional MPs as the officer presiding over the house, as claimed by the opposition.

He said the decisions he made as Speaker were part of his duties.

“I do not speak for the prime minister, I am only managing time for the meeting (in Parliament),” Azhar said in a press conference in Parliament today.

He was addressing criticism from opposition MPs that he had defended the government during the debate on the royal address last week when Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz was answering Lim Guan Eng (Bagan-PH) about Putrajaya’s out-of-court settlement with Goldman Sachs.

“Nor do I speak for the finance minister. I just did not want the issue (that day) to be blown up to the point of becoming polemical,” Azhar said.

He said there was nothing he could do about allegations of his bias and maintained that he was only carrying out his duties as Speaker.

“I accept all criticisms. What else can I do except to do my job?”

Speaker to reporters, Azhar, who was visibly upset, said he refused to entertain claims made against him and that he simply wanted to do his job as the speaker.

“I am not going to justify any action of mine. I am not going to polemicise whatever I do while I sit on the chair. That’s what I do, it’s a job to me.

Afif Abd Halim/TMI

“So, I am not going to answer all those questions. Sorry, I can’t, and I shouldn’t. It’s like (being) a judge when they make a judgment and that’s it, you know.

“So, I can’t answer all those questions, I’m sorry,” he told the media when met at the Parliament building today when asked to respond to criticisms made against him.

When asked on claims that he has shifted over to side with the Perikatan Nasional government, Azhar again denied the allegation.

Last week, Lim questioned Tengku Zafrul on whether the cabinet had approved the out-of-court settlement for US$3.9 billion with Goldman Sachs.

As Zafrul hesitated over his answer, Azhar chipped in from the speaker’s chair saying that if the settlement had been the Finance Ministry’s decision, it must have been brought before the cabinet.

Zafrul then said the cabinet had given the mandate to the attorney-general and team to negotiate with the investment bank that facilitated 1MDB’s bond issues and financing.

Lim, unhappy with the answer, continued to pester Tengku Zafrul on whether the cabinet had approved the settlement, saying such a matter should have had better accountability and oversight.

Lim was, however, drowned out by Perikatan MPs who interjected with other questions as diversion.

Under the terms of the deal, Goldman Sach will pay Malaysia US$2.5 billion (RM10.5 billion) and guarantee the return of US$1.4 billion worth of recovered assets bought with 1MDB funds.

Azhar’s appointment as Speaker is being challenged five MPs led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Azhar yesterday applied to strike out the legal challenge.

The appointments of his deputies, Azalina Othman Said and Rashid Hasnon, are also being challenged in court.

Azhar and Azalina were appointed by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on July 13.

Azhar replaced Pakatan Harapan-appointed Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof after a motion to remove the incumbent was passed through bloc voting.

The opposition contends that it was not allowed the 14-day period to nominate other candidates for the speaker and deputy speakers’ posts.

Despite being labelled as the “backdoor speaker”, Azhar, who is also known as Art Harun, maintained that his appointment was legitimate, saying that there was no need for a voting session in the Lower House, should there only be one nominee.