PETALING JAYA: The Dewan Rakyat convenes next month and speculation is rife about who will assume the most important position in the august House – the Speaker.
The election of Speaker is the first item of business for a new Parliament, and takes place on the first sitting day after each general election – in this case, on July 16.
A number of senior lawmakers’ names are being bandied about, but with an incomplete Cabinet, it is difficult to say who among them will become ministers.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran had recently hinted a female Speaker was possible, giving hope to female lawmakers who had to tolerate sexist remarks in the House for years.
Constitutional lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar believes a female Speaker is possible, provided the chosen candidate holds the necessary qualifications.
“The Dewan Rakyat Speaker can be either an MP or someone qualified to be elected as one, such as being at least 21 years old and not disqualified under Article 48 of the Federal Constitution.
“An ex-judge could be a Speaker too, as long as the requirements are fulfilled. The sixth Dewan Rakyat Speaker, the late Tun Dr Mohamed Zahir Ismail, was a High Court judge,” he said when contacted.
Article 48 mandates that a person cannot be a lawmaker (or Speaker) if they are of unsound mind, bankrupt, hold an office of profit, become a citizen of another country, spend more money than permissible by law on their election campaign, or is convicted for a crime where the punishment is a jail term of one year or more or a fine of RM2,000 or more.
Asked who would be a suitable Speaker candidate from among Pakatan Harapan lawmakers, Imtiaz named Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh.
“I think she would be a good choice. She has experience from being the Speaker of the Selangor state assembly, the first woman appointed to the position,” he said.
Pakatan Harapan has 16 female lawmakers in the Dewan Rakyat who do not hold Cabinet positions.
In terms of seniority, five-term MP Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh) is top of the list, followed by Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Permatang Pauh), Fuziah Salleh (PKR-Kuantan) and Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Kulai) who are in their third term.
The two-term female lawmakers are Kasthuriraani Patto (DAP-Batu Kawan) and Alice Lau (DAP-Lanang).
On the list of first-terms are Yeoh, Yeo Bee Yin (DAP-Bakri), Maria Chin Abdullah (PKR-Petaling Jaya), Nor Azrina Surip (PKR-Merbok), Datin Paduka Dr Tan Yee Kew (PKR-Wangsa Maju), Rusnah Aluai (PKR-Tangga Batu), Natrah Ismail (PKR-Sekijang), Wong Shu Qi (DAP-Kluang), Noorita Sual (DAP-Tenom) and Christina Liew (PKR-Tawau).
In 2013, the then Pakatan Rakyat had proposed former Federal Court judge Datuk Abdul Kadir Sulaiman as Speaker, but the majority vote went to Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia for a second term.