Ariff will bring dignity, class to Dewan Rakyat, say lawyers

Former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Ariff Mohd Yusof, who was appointed as Dewan Rakyat speaker yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: The legal fraternity believes retired judge Mohd Ariff Mohd Yusof could restore the dignity of the federal legislature following his election as Dewan Rakyat speaker.

They said Ariff had the experience and temperament to chair the body which could be boisterous at times.

As an ex-judicial officer, they added, Ariff would be innovative, fair and yet strict in maintaining the decorum of the house.

Retired judge Gopal Sri Ram, who has known Ariff since he was a practitioner, said he was a man of fearless integrity.

“On the bench, he showed extraordinary judicial temperament. He is perhaps the best choice for speaker,” he said, adding that he had no doubt Ariff would turn the Dewan Rakyat into a world-class centre of political debate.

Sri Ram, who is now practising law, said Ariff strictly followed the rules across the board.

“Based on previous experience, the public anticipates some rowdy behaviour from some MPs. Ariff will handle this with class by enforcing the rules,” he said.

Due to his temperament, Sri Ram added, Ariff could not be provoked.

“And his judicial experience has honed his skills in this respect. So if there are MPs who think that he will lose his temper and act in haste, I suggest they think again.”

Sri Ram also said Ariff would encourage debate because he was a democrat, and this would be healthy for Parliament.

Ariff was appointed as speaker yesterday after the Dewan Rakyat convened for the first time since the May 9 general election which saw Pakatan Harapan taking federal power.

Another retired judge, Varghese George, said Ariff was of the same mould as another of his predecessors, Mohd Zahir Ismail.

Zahir was a former judge who served as Dewan Rakyat speaker from 1982 to 2004.

“He is very cool under fire. I am very confident he will be rational in his decision,” said George who, like Ariff, retired in the Court of Appeal.

He said Ariff’s impeccable qualities on the bench had won the admiration of lawyers in and outside the courtroom.

“I am sure he will not simply throw MPs out of the house unlike his immediate predecessor.

“Heckling among MPs is part of parliamentary culture but I am confident he will be mindful at all times of maintaining the dignity of the august body before acting,” he added.

Meanwhile, lawyer Ragunath Kesavan said Ariff would not be biased towards the executive and government backbenchers in discharging his duties.

“He has the quality of a speaker Malaysians can be proud of but he must be given time to acclimatise himself in the new environment,” said Ragunath, who is a former Malaysian Bar president.

He was also confident that Ariff would introduce much-awaited reforms and make the Dewan Rakyat “truly a people’s chamber”.

“I expect him to set the tone for healthy debates and form select committees to scrutinise bills that conform with the laws and the Federal Constitution,” he added.

Ragunath also said it was Ariff, as a probation judge in 2009, who declared that Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo could be suspended but that the house could not take away his remunerations, benefits and allowances.

That decision was finally affirmed by the Federal Court in 2014.