Speaker Zahir  exceeded his powers and breached Standing Orders in refusing to allow two motions yesterday to be amended by the Barisan Alternative MPs  without notice

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Speaker, Tun Mohamed Zahir, had exceeded his powers and breached the Parliamentary Standing Orders in refusing to allow two motions yesterday to be amended by the Barisan Alternative MPs without notice.

In the first motion, DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng had wanted to introduce an amendment to the motion on the appointment of members of the Selection Committee to replace Datuk Osu Sukam (BN - Papar) with Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Keadilan -  Permatang Pauh) for two reasons - to ensure more balanced representation between the Barisan Nasional and the Barisan Alternative as well as to bring about gender representation in the Selection Committee.

The appointment of Parti Keadilan Nasional Chairman  in the Selection Committee will make Malaysian parliamentary history as it would be the first time a woman would have been appointed to the Selection Committee of the Dewan Rakyat in the past 41 years.

In the second motion, PAS MP for Kuala Kedah, Mohamad Sabu had wanted to propose an amendment to the motion on the appointment of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) to restore well-established parliamentary convention and tradition recognised world-wide that the Chairman of the parliamentary watchdog against financial abuses and corruption should come from the Opposition.  Mohamad proposed that DAP MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw should be appointed PAC Chairman instead of UMNO MP for Rompin, Datuk Dr. Jamaluddin Mohd Jarjis as proposed by the government.

However, in both cases, the Speaker, Tun Mohamad Zahir refused to allow the amendments on ground that prior notice had not been given, flying in the face of Standing Order 26(1)(a) which specifically provides that amendments to motions proposed from the chair do not require prior notice.

It is under Standing Order 26(1)(a) that I had in the past moved amendments to motions of thanks for the royal address without giving any prior notice.

I understand that the Speaker had referred to Standing Order 28, which is irrelevant, for it referred to notice required to be given by an MP  who wants to amend the terms of a motion standing in his name - and has nothing to do with an amendment of another memberís  motion put to the House by the Speaker, which does not require any prior notice.

The only other relevant provision is Standing Order 32 which requires any amendment  to a motion to be put into writing, which could be done on the spot by giving to the Setiausaha of Parliament the amendment in writing.

It is most regrettable that the Speaker had exceeded his powers and breached the standing orders and in the process, denied Opposition MPs their parliamentary right to move amendments to motions and highlight the unfairness and impropriety in the appointment of the Selection Committee as well as the PAC Chairman.

The only redress against the Speakerís breach of the Standing Orders and established parliamentary practices is for a substantive motion to be moved under Standing Order 43 for the ruling to be reviewed by the whole House. However,  practices in the Malaysian Parliament have become so undemocratic and archaic that time had never been allocated for such a substantive motion to review the Speakerís ruling to be debated although proper notice had been given.

This means that although  there is provision for redress against unfair and arbitrary rulings by the Speaker, this is an illusory one as in practice, no substantive motion to review the Speakerís ruling had been allowed to be debated by the simple expedient of the government refusing to allocate time for the substantive motion.

This is another breach of established universal parliamentary conventions and traditions where substantive motions are rendered completely meaningless in the Malaysian Parliament, as they are not allowed to be debated at all.

There is an urgent need for wide-ranging parliamentary reforms in the practices and  procedures of the Dewan Rakyat to make the Malaysian Parliament relevant to the needs of the country and the aspirations of the people.  I hope the new MPs from both the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative will take up the cry for parliamentary reforms so that they could be MPs of the 21st century and not of the 20th century.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman