Change of guard in the House

"The government carried out an evaluation and felt, based on reasonable grounds, that he (Mohamad Ariff) would not be able to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the present administration." - Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan

PARLIAMENT saw an unprecedented change of guard with the removal of a sitting Dewan Rakyat Speaker and the appointment of the first woman Deputy Speaker.

Former Election Commission (EC) chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun was appointed the Dewan Rakyat Speaker with a razor-thin majority.

Some 111 lawmakers voted “aye” while 109 opposed the removal of Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.

One MP was absent while Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon abstained from voting as he chaired the proceedings.

Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said was appointed the Deputy Speaker.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had tabled the motion to remove Mohamad Ariff, which sparked an intense verbal exchange among lawmakers who questioned the validity of the move.

They argued that there was no vacancy for the Speaker’s post, adding that there were no valid reasons to remove Mohamad Ariff as he had a good track record.

Opposition lawmakers also insisted that Rashid made a ruling on the motion before it was debated.

Rashid ruled that only four MPs, two from each side of the political divide, were allowed to debate for 10 minutes each.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PH-Port Dickson) said this was unprecedented as previously, new Speakers were appointed following vacancies due to general election or death.

“In the case of Speaker Tan Sri Nik Ahmad Kamil Nik Mahmud, who died in 1977, the then prime minister had postponed the Dewan Rakyat for two weeks and a new Speaker was appointed after that.

“There was also the case of Tun Syed Nasir Ismail who passed away and the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had postponed the sitting before subsequently calling for a general election.

“This time around there is no such thing. Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff has done an excellent job, ” said Anwar, adding that Mohamad Ariff had introduced several parliamentary reforms during his tenure.

Anwar urged lawmakers to use their conscience when voting on the motion and not to set a bad precedent with regards to the appointment of the Speaker.

Datuk Dr Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh (PAS-Pasir Puteh) said this was a normal parliamentary procedure to change the Speaker following the change of government.

“We are not trying to insult anyone, this is a normal procedure in Parliament to ensure smooth proceedings, ” he said.

Dr Mahathir (Independent-Langkawi) in his argument said the Speaker should be someone neutral and not biased towards the Executive.

“This is a big issue and only two MPs (from each side) are allowed to debate. This seems as though they are trying to shut us up.

“If this is a motion then I don’t know what sort of a motion it is, because I have not read anywhere in our Federal Constitution or Standing Order which says that a prime minister can change the Speaker with the excuse there is another candidate to fill the post, ” he added.To this, Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN-Baling) questioned Dr Mahathir’s past record when he was prime minister, saying the nonagenarian had changed several people who held key positions in the Executive and Judiciary.

Dr Mahathir responded that the issue at hand was the motion tabled by Muhyiddin, which he described as “loose”.

In winding up the debate, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and Law Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said Mohamad Ariff was being removed as he was deemed unsuitable by the present administration.

“On May 18, the government allowed him to chair the meeting and he was not removed or sacked.

“Since then, the government carried out an evaluation and felt, based on reasonable grounds, that he (Mohamad Ariff) would not be able to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the present administration, ” he said.

Takiyuddin highlighted what was being done by Perikatan Nasional was following the Federal Constitution and House rules.

He added that Mohamad Ariff himself had allowed the motion to be included in the Order Papers with 14 days’ notice given by Muhyiddin.

The motion was then put to vote but opposition MPs had called for bloc voting, which saw Azhar becoming the next Speaker with a thin majority.

The House then adjourned for lunch with Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming announcing his immediate resignation from his post before a motion for his removal could be tabled by Muhyiddin.

After lunch, further chaos ensued with opposition MPs heckling Azhar while he was delivering his maiden speech after being sworn in.

Azhar continued speaking despite the commotion and addressed the House.

Despite chants of “tipu, tipu, tipu” (lies), Azhar thanked lawmakers who took part in the voting process.

“Thank you for voting, although some of you don’t agree with it, ” he said.

After the speech, Muhyiddin informed the House that he was retracting the motion to remove Nga as the latter had submitted his resignation to the Dewan.

Muhyiddin then tabled the motion to appoint Azalina as Deputy Speaker.

Takiyuddin then tabled another motion to adjourn the sitting for the day as the order of the day in Dewan had concluded.

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