The current sitting also saw many firsts in the country’s history, one of which is the appointment of the first female Deputy Speaker.
The 14th Parliament sitting saw many firsts in the country’s history
On 13 July, it marked the first full-day Parliament sitting under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration, which coincidentally witnessed the first removal of the Dewan Rakyat Speaker in Malaysia’s history.
According to outgoing speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, his removal is said to be the first in the Commonwealth history.
A few minutes after Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun replaced Mohamad Ariff, the first ruling he made as the newly-minted Speaker was to boot Shah Alam Member of Parliament (MP) Khalid Samad out of the Dewan Rakyat.
Later in the evening, the Parliament welcomed the first female Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
With PN currently believed to be running the government with a paper-thin majority, the Speaker and his Deputies have been accused by the Opposition of not staying impartial while chairing the Parliament
Many MPs in the opposition have been told not to ask certain questions or push certain motions by the Speaker or his Deputies.
To bring you up to the speed, here are six times questions and motions that have been rejected in the 14th Parliament sitting so far, which sets worrying precedents for the parliamentary procedure:
1. No question asked on the first day of the Parliament
Prior to the first full-day Parliament sitting this year, the Perikatan Nasional coalition held a one-day sitting on 18 May to fulfil the requirement of the Dewan Rakyat’s mandatory sitting after six months since the last Parliament session.
The sitting was also a historical event as it was held slightly over an hour where no MPs were allowed to bring up any questions for debates. The only agenda for the sitting was the royal address by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament And Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the need to call for the sitting surmounted the rule under the Movement Control Order (MCO), which stipulated that a gathering of more than 20 people is illegal. He said that the sitting was necessary or else the House would be automatically dissolved, reported New Straits Times.
The move was met with much criticism from the opposition, claiming that it violated the democratic system. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accused Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin of orchestrating that because the latter had yet to gather enough support from the MPs to command a majority in the Dewan Rakyat, according to CNA.
At that time, many MPs aligned with the PN government were reportedly being awarded top posts in government-linked companies (GLCs). Analysts had claimed that the arrangements were made to solidify PN’s fragile support from MPs in the newly-formed coalition.
2. Motion to push for a vote for Azhar’s appointment as Speaker was rejected
After 56 days since the one-day sitting, the 14th Parliament reconvened on 13 July.
The first full-day sitting under PN administration was filled with disorder throughout the day.
Outgoing speaker Mohamad Ariff was officially removed with 111 votes in favour of his dismissal versus 109 votes against it.
Premier Muhyiddin then proposed Azhar as the new Speaker. Anwar told the House to allow MPs to debate on the appointment as the matter should not be rushed as it concerned national importance.
The call for a vote for Azhar’s appointment was ignored with Takiyuddin explaining that there was no need for voting because only one name was proposed, reported Astro Awani.
Shortly after some exchange, Azhar went on to take his oath as the 10th Dewan Rakyat Speaker despite the ceremony being decried by the opposition.
3. Motion to nominate a Deputy Speaker candidate after Nga Kor Ming’s sudden resignation was ignored
After Mohamad Ariff was ousted, former deputy Nga Kor Ming relinquished his position in solidarity with the former’s removal, reported New Straits Times.
His resignation came ahead of the motion for his removal in the Dewan Rakyat during lunchtime.
When the Parliament reconvened after the break, Premier Muhyiddin withdrew his motion to remove Nga as the deputy speaker since the latter had resigned, reported Malaysiakini.
Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo interjected, saying the House should be given a 14-day period to nominate a new candidate following Nga’s sudden resignation. Gobind was seconded by Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, along with other MPs from the PH coalition, reported Bernama.
However, Speaker Azhar stated that there is no rule that stipulated that the nomination of a candidate can only happen when there is a vacancy.
The Speaker went ahead to table the motion and nominate Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said as Nga’s replacement. The opposition protested against it, but Azalina took her oath as the new Deputy Speaker nonetheless.
According to Malaysiakini, Speaker Azhar explained that Azalina’s appointment is valid because no other candidates were put forth for the position, hence Azalina was appointed without a vote. Both of their appointments were made without a vote.
After the Parliament concluded on Monday, Dr Mahathir said PN bulldozing motions in the Dewan Rakyat while shutting down the opposition showed that the administration disregards the rule of law, reported Malay Mail.
4. Demand to make a ruling against the Baling MP was ignored
Earlier in the same sitting, the newly-minted Speaker also ignored the opposition MPs’ demand to make a ruling against Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul, who made racist and sexist remarks against Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto.
The Baling MP’s “too dark, can’t see” and “put on some powder” comments were heard by all ears in the Dewan Rakyat, but he refused to retract his words – not until he had caused ruckus in the House.
Multiple MPs, including opposition leader Anwar and Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, had spoken up in the House. However, Speaker Azhar declined to make any ruling to suspend the Baling MP.
The next day, 14 July, Speaker Azhar merely told Abdul Azeez to formally apologise despite Kasthuri said that it was too late and that he should not be excused with just a mere sorry.
Kasthuri pleaded Speaker Azhar to make the right decision, claiming that Abdul Azeez is a “repeat offender”.
In the end, the issue was dismissed with the Baling MP being let off without any repercussions.
5. Segambut MP told to stop asking questions and take Minister’s reply as it is
On Wednesday’s sitting, 15 July, when Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh asked Women, Family, and Community Development (KPWKM) Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun a question about how is the government is handling refugees being evicted out their homes by landlords, the Minister seemed to be at a loss of words, reported Free Malaysia Today.
Yeoh, who was formerly the KPWKM deputy minister, said homeless refugees could become a security issue if the National Security Council and KPWKM did not collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resolve the problem.
However, Rina seemed to have no solid answers and she skirted the question.
After some back and forth, Yeoh said Rina didn’t answer her question and insisted on getting a clarification.
Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hanson then interjected and told Yeoh that the session was not meant for debate, reported Malaysiakini.
“This is not a debate session. Whatever answer you have received, just take it as it is,” Rashid told Yeoh, before moving on from the topic.
6. Questions regarding 1MDB are not allowed in the House
When Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng brought up the word ‘1MDB’ on Wednesday, MPs sitting on the government bench began grumbling, reported Free Malaysia Today.
Lim, who is also the former finance minister, cited a recent filing by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which claimed that a yacht worth RM2.96 billion was bought with 1MDB funds. He asked what is the government’s action in the new discovery.
However, he was shot down by MPs aligned with the government. Baling MP Abdul Azeez told Lim not to talk about the subject as the case is currently under trial in courts.
As MPs from both sides started to boil up, Deputy Speaker Azalina muted their microphones and said that court cases shouldn’t be raised as it would be considered sub judice.
To which Lim replied that the case regarding the yacht – formerly known as Topaz – is not in courts yet. “This is not an old case,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Azalina ignored the argument and said she had made her decision to disallow court cases to be brought into the Parliament for discussion.
In a recent report by The Sarawak Report, a known whistleblower of the 1MDB scandal in 2015, the news portal branded Azalina as the “world-famous […] 1MDB denier who lied and defended her kleptocratic boss right till the end in 2018”.
The report said Azalina could be looking after Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s interests in Parliament now since she is part of the ruling coalition.