Lawyers group: Govt can’t pass the buck to speaker on RUU355

Lawyers for Liberty adviser N Surendran

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Liberty said today it is wrong for Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh to say it’s up to the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to allow the bill on amending the Shariah Courts Act, or RUU 355, to be debated, and that the government cannot interfere.

LFL adviser N Surendran said it was the government which effectively decided which motions or bills were to be debated, and not the speaker. This is by virtue of Standing Order 15(1) which states that government business takes precedence over private members’ business.

“Hence, it is up to the government to bring forward any private members’ motion for debate. This can be done if the minister in charge of parliamentary affairs informs the speaker that the government desires to bring the private members’ motion up for debate. Otherwise, the speaker is bound by Standing Order 15(1) and the usual order of business.”

Surendran said in a statement that the decision whether to debate the RUU 355 motion, therefore, could not be passed on to the speaker.

In the previous Parliament, PAS president Hadi Awang had introduced a private members bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or RUU355. It was listed for second reading in the order paper of Parliament in March but did not see the light of day.

Surendran said: “Fuziah also misunderstands the application of the concept of separation of powers to Parliament. In a Westminster-style Parliament such as ours, the executive’s legislative agenda is prioritised.”

Surendran also said that RUU 355 was a “blatantly unconstitutional bill” and that the government was under no obligation to sacrifice legislative time to debate such a bill.