Wrong to block move to change Dewan speaker, says lawyer

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff is expected to be replaced by former Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun.

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s motion to replace Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff and his deputy, Nga Kor Ming, is provided in law and does not go against the principles of democracy, says a lawyer.

Speaking at an online forum titled “Pertahankan Reformasi Parlimen Siri 3: Perlukah Speaker Ditukar?”, Jeremiah Yee said the Federal Constitution is clear that the speaker is chosen by the Dewan Rakyat.

Former de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong and another former federal minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan were the other panellists.

“If you want the people to sign a petition to stop the removal of the speaker, we are obstructing the sovereignty of Dewan Rakyat and that is wrong,” said Yee.

Jeremiah Yee

Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 has launched a petition to retain Ariff and strengthen parliamentary reforms.

Muhyiddin, the Pagoh MP, recently filed a motion to replace Ariff and Nga, with former Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun and former minister Azalina Othman Said nominated as their respective replacements.

“Our constitution says what Parliament decides during proceedings cannot be challenged in court. If the courts cannot challenge, surely the people cannot,” said Yee.

Liew Vui Keong

He added that while the constitution says a speaker will be changed each time the Dewan Rakyat meets for the first time after a general election, it also allows the Dewan Rakyat to change or replace the speaker at any time.

Yee also said the constitution did not stipulate the need for a reason to change the speaker.

“So far, we have not heard that the speaker has made any mistakes but even if he does his work well it does not mean he cannot be replaced,” he said in the forum organised by Bersih 2.0.

Meanwhile, Liew, who is against Ariff being replaced, said the public could see the reforms the retired judge had brought to Parliament, including the setting up of parliamentary select committees, having an opposition MP chair the Public Accounts Committee and making MPs declare their assets.

Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

He said he understood the reason cited to replace Ariff was because there was a replacement for him though this was not reasonable.

“If the speaker has not been performing well, we can understand.”

Rahman, meanwhile, said he was of the view that Azhar was a more reform-minded person, and this was why the previous administration appointed him to lead the EC.

“He has immense experience in civil society. His reform-mindedness is known by all. If Ariff is replaced by someone without credibility, we can question it,” he said, adding that he believed Azhar, if appointed, will continue the reforms Ariff has embarked on.

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