KUALA LUMPUR: The opposition today questioned the impartiality of Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof after the speaker acknowledged that his son is the press secretary of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) had asked Ariff if his son was working with Lim, to which the speaker said yes.
“It is not something I have hidden,” he said.
“My son is 31 or 32 now, and he is free to work anywhere. More importantly, I act freely and uninfluenced in this house.”
Ismail then asked Ariff if this was not considered a conflict of interest, and whether his son’s job was related to the lack of action against Lim over his remarks on the goods and services tax (GST) refunds last year.
Lim had accused the previous Barisan Nasional government of misusing RM19.4 billion meant for GST refunds.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said earlier this week that no money was missing although a violation had been made of the Goods and Services Tax Act 2014 where the money was transferred into a Consolidated Revenue Account instead of the GST Refund Account.
However, Ariff maintained that there was no conflict of interest involved. He was supported by RSN Rayer (DAP-Jelutong), who said even PH members did not know about the matter.
“This was purposely brought up by the opposition,” he added.
Ismail Mohamed Said (BN-Kuala Krau) said Ariff was duty-bound to declare all of his interests, as well as those of his spouse and children.
He said based on his admission, Ariff should recuse himself from making any ruling related to Lim, or even the opposition’s proposed motion for a debate on the PAC report on GST refunds.
He said while Ariff had rightly told Lim that it was wrong to say “robbing” and that he should retract it, the finance minister had insisted “no, no” when the ruling was made.
“At that time, when Lim said ‘no, no’, it appeared as though you had a conflict of interest. I am emotional about this as there are MPs that refuse to follow the rules.
“It is a black mark in my history as an MP, especially as I was once a deputy speaker. How does a person make a decision when the other person is the employer of his son?”
But Ariff said the motion related to revisions of his rulings would be chaired by his two deputies anyway, as one of them involved a revision of his ruling on Lim.
“If you think I am not fair, please bring a motion against me, and I will recuse myself,” he said.