Azhar set on continuing with Parliament reform agenda

PETALING JAYA: Despite a chaotic first day as Dewan Rakyat Speaker, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun still enjoys his work and is determined to continue with the Parliament reform agenda.

“I’m enjoying my work. I have always said that if I wake up in the morning and don’t feel like going to work, that’s the time to resign but I (still) look forward to coming to work,” he told journalists in a virtual press conference.

The former Election Commission (EC) chairman said he liked learning the process of policy-making, adding that he enjoyed his engagements with politicians on both sides of the fence.

On his first day on the job on July 13 last year, Opposition MPs had protested Azhar’s appointment, resulting in a shouting match that also led to Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad being booted out of Parliament.

Azhar said although he had not expected a shouting match on his first day, thinking there would be more decorum in Parliament, he understood that many MPs felt strongly about the removal of his predecessor Tan Sri Mohd Ariff Md Yusof via a motion.

He said although he still mingled with the same crowd of politicians from his time as EC chairman, his new job came with different challenges.

“At the EC, I looked at ways to improve the voting experience but now, I try to ensure smooth discourse between two sides of the political fence,” he said.

Azhar is also adamant about continuing with the Parliament reform agenda, one of which involves improving the utilisation of the special select committee.

He said the matter had been “work in progress” for five months now, with the MPs and ministerial staff being trained on the functions of a special select committee.

“We show them what it means to be summoned by the select committee and what it does.

“They are also informed about documents, secrecy and the kind of protection they can receive,” he said.

Azhar said he had also managed to push the Finance Ministry for an allocation for the special select committee, adding that it now had 11 dedicated trained staff that functioned as a basic secretariat.

The committee, he added, used to not have its own secretariat and had to depend on others for resources whenever there was a meeting.

He is also thinking of holding training sessions on Parliamentary reporting.

Azhar counts himself lucky to be familiar with politicians from both sides as this helps him a lot with his new responsibilities.

He said he tries his best to settle differences and would not let criticism affect him personally.

“I always learn from criticism and I am willing to take the high moments with the low,” Azhar said.

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