Speaker Azhar Urged to Fulfil His Role as Parliament’s Guardian of Democracy

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Speaker’s neutrality and independence compromised, says DAP.

Lim Guan Eng has joined the growing list of lawmakers condemning Parliament’s decision to limit the number of media agencies allowed to cover the upcoming sitting, saying such a move further stifled the already diminishing democratic practices here.

Lim today urged Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun to fulfil his role as Parliament’s guardian of democracy, claiming the latter had already on more than one occasion fallen short of performing that role, with limiting media coverage given as one example.

“This act of preventing the media from fully covering Parliament and subsequent Budget tabling next month appears to profile all media practitioners as Covid-19 high risks is unjustified and unfair, when it is proven that members of the administration pose higher risk,” Lim wrote in a statement today.

“Restricting open and free coverage of Parliament, especially the right to freedom of information, would also jeopardise an essential element in the promotion of democracy.

“Covid-19 should not result in putting freedom of the press at risk, when it is independent reporting that will highlight any failures and weaknesses including managing the Covid-19 health crisis,” he added.

Last week, an official Parliament circular noted that only 15 selected media agencies would be allowed to cover the next sitting beginning November 2, citing Covid-19 risks for the decision.

The move has been condemned by Opposition lawmakers and journalist bodies, calling it an attempt to stifle freedom of press and freedom of information.

Azhar was also then chided by the Bagan MP for not giving priority to a no-confidence motion that was filed against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, with Lim claiming that such a proposal would have been given precedence and pushed through in other democratic countries.

According to Lim, Azhar has compromised his impartiality in supporting and protecting the Perikatan Nasional government.

“He has clearly compromised his independence, impartiality and neutrality in what is clearly observable as a political act to save the federal government under the pretext of giving priority to government business,” Lim said.

Last week, Azhar confirmed receiving a letter from Umno’s Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who questioned the former on why a no-confidence filed against Muhyiddin was not tabled in Parliament.

The Speaker later explained that such a move would only be pushed through had it been submitted by a Cabinet minister.

“DAP urges the Speaker not to compromise Parliament’s special role and status but deliver on his previous recorded promises on upholding the supremacy, sovereignty and sanctity of Parliament,” Lim wrote.