Now, it’s ex-judges Ariff or Hishamudin for speaker post

Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (left) and Mohd Hishamudin Yunus.

PETALING JAYA: The plan to appoint an elected MP as the Dewan Rakyat speaker may be abandoned as there is fear that this will not sit well with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) promise to ensure fairness in parliamentary debates, a source close to the inner circles of the top leadership has revealed.

Instead, two retired Court of Appeal judges are now the favourites despite pressure from PKR to appoint its man as part of a “compromise” for instances where its elected representatives where “sidelined” for the menteri besar post in several states.

The source said former judges Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and Mohd Hishamudin Yunus were favoured not only because of their knowledge of the law, but also due to the absence of any political loyalty displayed during their time on the bench.

Both judges retired in 2015. They were known for several judgments not favourable to the authorities, especially in cases related to draconian laws such as the now-defunct Internal Security Act and Official Secrets Act.

Hishamudin was also behind several landmark judgments which touched on constitutional issues, including the case of a woman born to Hindu parents, where he ruled that her legal challenge to her Islamic conversion by Penang religious authorities should be heard in a civil court.

The G25 group of retired prominent civil servants has also endorsed both names, saying they have “impeccable track records in carrying out their duties fairly”.

The source told FMT that a planned announcement today of the government’s candidate for the speaker’s post would likely be delayed, owing to disagreements.

After PH top leaders met over the weekend, the coalition’s chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah said the speaker would be selected from among MPs to ensure a “sense of responsibility” to fellow lawmakers.

The post was last occupied by Sabahan politician Pandikar Amin Mulia, who was criticised by then-opposition MPs for scuttling debates in favour of Barisan Nasional (BN), most notably on topics related to troubled state firm 1MDB.

Several names had been rumoured for the post, including that of two veteran politicians – former minister Rais Yatim and DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang.

PKR had promoted its former chief whip Johari Abdul, but this drew protest from some, including G25, who said Johari’s past involvement with the controversial BN-era agency National Civic Bureau (BTN) disqualified him for the post.

Rais, although fitting the image of a speaker due to his legal background, is also unlikely to fill the post due to his background as a politician.

Lim, meanwhile, was touted as knowledgeable after decades of leading parliamentary debates. He had also seen his fair share of action against him, including a recent suspension from attending Dewan Rakyat sessions.

“He would have been the perfect candidate. But obviously, this would unsettle the ranks among the other component parties in the ruling coalition,” said the source.