THE removal of the then Dewan Rakyat speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to be replaced by Azhar Azizan Harun on July 13 last year was momentous and historic.
Ariff became the first sitting Malaysian speaker to be removed. According to parliamentary convention, a speaker’s position is typically made vacant in one of the following three circumstances – when Parliament is dissolved for a general election, when the speaker dies in office or when the speaker resigns.
But when then prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin submitted a motion to replace Ariff and his deputy Nga Kor Ming, none of the above existed.
Muhyiddin was reported to have submitted the motion on June 26 last year. Election reform watchdog Bersih did not take kindly to Muhyiddin’s motion and urged all MPs to vote against the motion.
“Bersih 2.0 staunchly opposes Muhyiddin’s motion to remove Ariff as the speaker and his deputy on the first day of the next parliamentary sitting on July 13.
“The other deputy speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon, who is an MP aligned to Muhyiddin, is unaffected by the move. Such a motion to remove a speaker of the house mid-term is unprecedented in Malaysia as the position is usually only vacated when Parliament is dissolved, upon death or resignation,” Bersih said in a statement.
The opposition too rejected the motion.
It appeared that Ariff did not pass the motion to his deputy Rashid to decide on the motion on the ground of conflict of interest. As a matter of fact, as a speaker Ariff had accepted the motion because it was “regular” on its face.
“I look at the motion and I say it looks regular, so I accept it. I cannot say no, this is not politically correct. I refuse. I have no such powers,” he said.
Muhyiddin’s motion read as follows:
“Bahawa Dewan Rakyat ini mengambil ketetapan untuk Tuan Yang di-Pertua, Yang Berhormat Tan Sri Dato’ Mohamad Ariff bin Md Yusof mengosongkan jawatannya atas alasan terdapat pencalonan lain bagi jawatan Tuan Yang di-Pertua.”
On July 13, 2020 the motion was approved, with 111 yays to 109 nays, with Rashid chairing the proceedings.
The above is a precedent that in order to remove a sitting speaker, a motion for the speaker to vacate his seat on the ground that there is another person for the post may be submitted to the speaker, who does not need to recuse himself from deciding whether the motion is regular or otherwise. But the speaker must recuse himself when the motion is brought before the Dewan Rakyat.
Of course, the motion must comply with the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders, in particular Standing Order 27(3), which requires no fewer than 14 days’ notice “unless it is in the name of a minister, in which case seven days’ notice or, if Tuan Yang di-Pertua is satisfied upon representation to him by a minister that the public interest requires that a motion should be debated as soon as possible, one day’s notice shall be sufficient.”
It was on this ground, among others, that the motion to remove and replace Ariff was contended as valid being in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Accordingly, if a lawmaker wishes to remove and replace a sitting speaker, do like Muhyiddin did. – September 7, 2021.
* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.