Lawsuit over appointments of Art Harun, Azalina not meant to paralyse Dewan Rakyat

Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla (left) and Rafique Rashid Ali at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Dr Mahathir Mohamad and four MPs told the High Court today that their lawsuit against the appointments of Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun and deputy Azalina Othman Said was not meant to “paralyse” the lower house’s proceedings.

Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said they were merely correcting the irregularity from the time Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin submitted motions to appoint Azhar and Azalina on June 29 until both motions were put to debate on July 13.

“In fact the former speaker (Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof) accepted motions on June 26 to remove him and deputy speaker (Nga Kor Ming) and he stated in writing that he accepted the motions because they complied with the Standing Orders.

“However on the motions about Azhar and Azalina’s appointments, Ariff only stated he took note of them,” Haniff said, adding that any motion to remove and fill the vacancies needed to be submitted at least 14 days in advance.

Mahathir, along with Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir, Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik, Kubang Pasu MP Amiruddin Hamzah and Sri Gading MP Shahruddin Md Salleh are seeking a declaration that the appointments of Azhar and Azalina are unconstitutional as they violate Article 57 of the Federal Constitution and Orders 3, 4, 6 and 47 of the Standing Orders.

Besides Azhar and Azalina, deputy speaker Rashid Hasnon and Dewan Rakyat secretary Nizam Mydin Bacha Mydin are also named as defendants.

Haniff told the court that MPs were deprived of their rights to nominate their choice of speaker and deputy after Ariff was removed on July 13 while Nga resigned on the same day.

“We are not asking the court to interfere with the Dewan Rakyat’s business. What we are saying here is that there was a blatant disregard of the 14 days rule under Standing Orders and it cannot be swept under the carpet using Article 63(1) of the Federal Constitution,” Haniff said, referring to the provision in the supreme law that states any proceeding in federal or state legislatures cannot be questioned in any court.

Meanwhile, Azhar and Rashid’s lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad maintained that Mahathir’s lawsuit was not justiciable, as the reliefs Mahathir and others were seeking dealt with the validity of the Dewan Rakyat’s sitting.

“If MPs are not happy with Rashid’s ruling in allowing the debate and subsequent speaker and deputy’s appointments, they can file supplementary motions to remove them.

“The Standing Orders provide a mechanism on how MPs should go about if they are not happy with the ruling,” he said.

Amer, in urging the court to strike out Mahathir’s lawsuit, also said the court was not the proper forum to decide on how the Dewan Rakyat should conduct its business.

“If the court rules against the defendants, it may open the floodgates where every ruling by the speaker will be challenged in court,” he added.

Lawyer Tania Scivetti, appearing for Azalina and Nizam, told the court that Azalina’s appointment was valid because the lower house needed to fill the deputy speaker’s vacancy after Nga had left.

“Her appointment complied with provisions under the Standing Orders and Federal Constitution,” she said.

Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid fixed Nov 10 to deliver his decision.