While the Dewan Rakyat speaker has the discretion to decide which item should go first on the parliamentary Order Paper, the motion of no confidence should be given priority by convention.
Constitutional expert Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said: “Conventionally, as a matter of constitutional custom, the motion of no confidence is given priority.
“Although conventions are not law by themselves, conventions are basically rules of political morality and there are rules on political morality that are regarded as binding.
“The speaker was a former judge. He is a learned scholar of constitutional law and I think we can trust that he would give the motion of no confidence priority on the order paper,” he told the New Straits Times.
However, Shad expressed concern that the tabling of the motion of no confidence might take a long time to be wrapped up and this would cause government bills to be pushed back.
He said since it was Ramadan, it was unlikely that the House would extend the hours into late at night for government bills to be tabled.
“My main fear is that the House sits only until 5.30pm. The speaker can extend it by 15 minutes but beyond that, we have to sit through the night until 12am or 3am and for this, you need a special motion.
“So, if the debate for the no-confidence motion takes a long time because it will require a debate and a vote right after, time may run out for other (bills to be tabled).
“In that case, other motions can only be tabled in the next sitting, which is in July,” he said.
Yesterday, a letter by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof stated that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s request for a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had been accepted.
The NST had contacted Ariff for confirmation if he would allow the motion to be brought up first. However, he has yet to respond.
Former Perak state assembly speaker Datuk Seri SK Devamany said Ariff should use his discretion by taking into consideration the fact that the fight against Covid-19 was not over.
“We are still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and so the people’s interests and health should be given priority.
On the other hand, lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla urged Ariff and the Dewan Rakyat secretariat to come up with a new directive in terms of the number of days the Dewan Rakyat should sit.
Haniff was referring to the April 17 statement by the Dewan Rakyat secretariat, which stated that the House would sit for only one day, describing it as an “old directive” that should be updated.
The statement was made during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Haniff said now that the country was under the Conditional MCO, where economic and social activities were permitted, constitutional activities such as Parliament sessions should be given priority.
“If we go back to the original decision to fix the one-day sitting, in that letter, the Dewan Rakyat specifically mentioned the one-day sitting is for the Covid-19 pandemic and that has been overtaken by the CMCO, where the government itself has relaxed the MCO.
“The speaker should make a new directive as it is important for his decision to be in line with the current development because the previous statement is no longer valid.”
The Dewan Rakyat will convene for the first time this year on May 18. – NST