IN what could be the first for the Assembly, a member of the House has been suspended for a length of time that is to the Speaker’s discretion.
Sarawak DAP chairman and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (pic) was shown the door by Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar for the former’s refusal to withdraw a remark deemed improper against Housing Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Asfia ruled under Standing Order 43 (3) (c) whereby if Chong refused to withdraw or persistently, and wilfully refused to conform to the Standing Orders, a minister could table a motion for the said assemblyman to withdraw from the service of the House immediately, until the period stipulated by the minister who tabled the motion.
After a minute of discussion among the ministers, Special Functions Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem moved the motion and he was seconded by Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh.
When asked by the Speaker for how long should Chong be suspended for, Adenan replied: “Until the Speaker deemed it fit (for Chong) to come back.”
This drew rebuttals from the Opposition bench and chides from representatives on the government side.
Chong was suspended for refusing to withdraw his statement made during Friday’s sitting that Johari, who is Satok assemblyman, appeared to have a change of behaviour and demeanour that resembled that of an Umno politician.
He also expressed that there could be fear of Johari bringing Umno into Sarawak.
In completing his winding up speech yesterday, Johari called on Chong to withdraw the statement and that it should be expunged from the hansard.
Chong objected to this, stating that it was a well known fact that Umno was not welcomed in Sarawak.
As such he agreed to withdraw his remark only on the condition that the August House passed a resolution that Umno was bad for Sarawak; thus the state did not welcome the party and that the state government must ensure that Umno could not set up any branches in Sarawak.
Johari interrupted Chong, saying that under Standing Order 32(6) no member should impute improper motive to any other member.
As such, he said this had nothing to do with Umno as Chong was imputing improper motive against him personally.
Chong went on to argue that if he was to be accused of this by relating Johari to Umno, then the assumption must be that Umno was indeed bad. If that was to be the case, he added, the House should not hesitate to approve the resolution.
Here, Asfia stepped in saying that it was clear Chong did not deny making such statements against Johari and withdrawal could not be conditional since Chong was touching on behaviour and demeanour.
As such, he ruled for the tabling of a motion to suspend Chong.
Later, Chong along with eight other state DAP representatives held a press conference.
To his understanding, Chong said the Speaker could suspend a member until the end of the session so that meant that his suspension could end tomorrow.
“When he said I am suspended until he deems fit, this means this is up to the maximum of Speaker’s power but it can only be suspended until the length of his power.
“I shall try (to attend the State Legislative Sitting) May next year,” he said.
Furthermore, Chong was unhappy to be allowed to put in his defence after the motion was moved.