ARTICLE 57(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution mandates that the Dewan Rakyat shall from time to time elect two deputy speakers from among members of the Dewan Rakyat.
So it is right of de facto law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to say that “(we) need to make a constitutional amendment to article 57(1)(b) to increase the number of (deputy) speakers from two to three.”
A Dewan Rakyat with three deputy speakers will not be peculiar to a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy like ours.
The United Kingdom’s House of Commons has three deputy speakers. So has Canada’s. The former has 650 MPs while the latter has 338.
The role of deputy speaker was created in the middle of the 19th century as a permanent solution to any absences of the speaker.
However, to hold the post an individual also had to be the chairman of what was known as the ways and means committee. This dates back to the 17th century when the speaker was seen by the House as the king’s spy and so the MPs wanted one of their own to oversee financial matters. As a result, they created the committee for ways and means to propose tax raising plans, overseen by its chair.
In comparison, Australia’s House of Representatives has 151 MPs with two deputy speakers.
Does the Dewan Rakyat need three deputy speakers?
Perhaps yes, if the memorandum of understanding between the government and Pakatan Harapan for reform and political stability is carried through. As demands for more parliamentary special select committees are made, the chairs for the committees can be distributed among the three deputy speakers.
Until then, two deputy speakers should do, one of which should have been elected to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Pengerang MP Azalina Othman said.
Eight years ago, on September 13, 2013, Nigel Evans stepped down as deputy speaker of the House of Commons (UK) in order to “robustly” defend himself against charges of sexual offences.
The then 55-year-old politician denied all of the allegations in an emotional speech to MPs in the House, which was warmly received. He was later praised by then speaker John Bercow as an “exemplary” deputy.
With integrity as one of the hallmarks of a good speaker and deputy speakers, we could have elected a deputy speaker yesterday.
It would have been exemplary. – September 15, 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.