KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat Speaker has denied there is conflict of interest following revelation that his son had been appointed press secretary to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof's denial comes after claims of bias arose after he ruled on Wednesday (July 17) against taking action against Lim for his claims that RM19.4bil in GST credit refunds was "stolen" by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
"My son is 32 years old, and he is free to work with whomever he wants.
"I acted independently and was not influenced in any way," he said, responding to a query raised by Opposition chief Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) in Parliament on Thursday (July 18).
Ismail, without going into specifics, asked Mohamad Ariff if he was aware of a viral post on social media which could affect his integrity.
The issue over Mohamad Ariff's impartiality first arose when it was revealed on an official website that his son Muhamad Lutfi Muhamad Ariff had been made the Finance Minister's press secretary.
Ismail Sabri also wanted to know the status of his application to allow a debate to take place over the Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) report on the GST refund.
The PAC found that the GST refunds, which Lim said was "stolen", was not missing but had been channelled to the Government's Consolidated Fund.
Mohamad Ariff had pon Wednesday (July 17) ruled that there was no basis for Lim to retract the word "stolen".
On Ismail Sabri's application to debate the PAC's GST report, the Speaker rejected it. He told Ismail Sabri that his application was submitted after 6.30pm on Wednesday (July 17) and hence deemed out of time.
"However, you are free to submit a fresh application on the motion in the next Parliamentary meeting in October," he said.
A shouting match ensued when Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Mohamed Said (BN-Kuala Krau) stood up to question Muhamad Ariff's ruling.
Dr Ismail, the former Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker, asked if the Speaker would recuse himself from making a ruling on Ismail Sabri's motion application if he filed a fresh one.
Muhamad Ariff said he would recuse himself when Ismail Sabri's motion application was heard in the next Parliament meeting.