Speaker has no powers to expedite motions filed for debates based on Westminster convention, Dewan told

KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat Speaker has no powers to expedite any motions filed for debates, says Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun (pic).

The Speaker himself said this was following the convention and practices of Westminster democracy.

Azhar said this following queries raised by Opposition lawmakers on why the motions of no confidence against the Prime Minister could not jump the queue and be debated in the august House before government business.

RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) said the recent incident in Perak, which saw the state's Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu losing a motion of confidence, has set precedence.

"I believe we have about 16 motions of no confidence against Pagoh (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin), and even a backbencher from the government, YB Gua Musang (Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah) has filed for one.

"If the Perak state assembly can allow such a motion against its MB, why can't you, Speaker, also do the same and give importance to the motions that have been filed?" asked Rayer.

Sim Tze Tzin (PH- Bayan Baru) said the matter should be debated as the Prime Minister needs to have the support of the majority of the voice in the House, as stated in the Federal Constitution.

"We need to decide on this matter, as the political stability of the nation depends on this," said Sim.

Azhar then calmly provided his explanation and said he did not know how the motion of no confidence in the Perak state assembly took place.

"I do not know the standing orders there, hence I am not sure under which standing order was the motion brought to number one.

"Secondly, I am not bound by the actions of other Speakers in state assemblies, because the standing orders in each state varies.

"Thirdly, my decision not to bring forward the motion is not based on my own whims and fancy; I have done deep research on this matter," he said.

Azhar said the according to the Westminster convention, the Speaker has no powers to bring forward motions of confidence or no confidence in the House.

Citing an example in the House of Commons in the UK when Valerie Vaz, an MP, raised the question to the speaker of the UK House of Commons about a no-confidence motion that had been made, but not yet debated in the House.

"The Speaker (of the House of Commons) had said that he had no indication from the government that they have any intention of acceding to the request of a debate on the motion, that is the convention.

"Therefore, the power is not in the hands of the Speaker, that is the convention and the convention in the UK.

"As such, I do not understand why many MPs, experts, lawyers, in fact former Attorney Generals who say that I have the power to do so when in fact, I don't," said Azhar.

The Speaker said he was more than willing to show anyone the in-depth research he has done on the matter.

"I did not do this willy nilly, I did my research," he said.

To this, Rayer interjected and said if the Perak Speaker had allowed it, making it a precedence, why can't the same be done in the Dewan Rakyat.

Azhar said many speak about the Westminster convention and that it should be followed here as well.

"So, we are following that and I am bound by the procedures that have been passed in this very Dewan Rakyat, in the form of the Standing Orders," said Azhar.

Rayer then said the Speaker should not be the middle man, adding that he should "act without fear or favour".

Azhar said he no longer wanted to discuss further on the matter, adding that it has been a long-drawn debate over the past four months.

"I know my opinions are not accepted, I know that people call me pathetic, but the crux of the matter is, it is the Westminster convention," said Azhar.

He further explained that Standing Order 43 does mention confidence, but questioned on how that can be shown or proven.

Looking at the case laws, Azhar said the most famous one heard on this matter was in the Federal Court between Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

"The vote of no confidence need not only come from the floors of the august House, that has been established in law.

"Even in Sabah, after the 14th General Election, that confidence was not expressed through the state assembly.

"So, I would like to continue now with the committee stage of the Budget," added Azhar.

V. Sivakumar (PH-Batu Gajah) then interjected and asked who needs to give an indication for such motions to be brought to the Dewan Rakyat.

To this, Azhar said that it should be a Minister.

Sim then said ministers are afraid to do so, as it could affect them.

To this, Azhar merely replied,"That is not my problem, I cannot proceed based on assumptions."

The House then continued debates for the committee stage of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

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