The parliamentary ruckus took place when the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Chan Kong Choy, when winding up the reply in the policy debate on the Supplementary Supply (2000 and 2001) Bill 2001, committed the parliamentary sin of refusing to reply to the many important issues raised by Kerk and other MPs during the debate.
Kerk berated Chan for his irresponsibility as well as contempt for Parliament in refusing to reply to the points raised in the earlier debate, and in the ruckus in demanding that Chan should act more responsibly in Parliament, Kerk was suspended by Mohd Zahir from the House for three days.
Mohd Zahir had clearly abused his powers as Speaker in suspending Kerk from Parliament for three days for a comparatively minor infraction of the parliamentary rules. In comparison, Chan had committed the more grave parliamentary sin of refusing to answer to issues raised by MPs during the debate.
If Ministers and Deputy Ministers refuse to answer issues raised by MPs during debates, what is the use of having parliamentary meetings and debates?
While Mohd Zahir maintained that there was nothing in the Standing Orders to compel Ministers or Deputy Ministers to reply to issues raised by MPs in a debate, such conduct though not a breach of the Standing Orders must be regarded as unacceptable and deplorable Ministerial conduct as it shows contempt for Parliament in not according due and proper respect for the views expressed by MPs.
Although there are no Standing Orders compelling Ministers not to play truant by frequently absenting themselves from Parliamentary proceedings and failing to turn up to answer questions or reply to speeches affecting their Ministries, this must be regarded as irresponsible, unacceptable and deplorable Ministerial conduct utterly disrespectful of Parliament.
When MPs chided or berated Ministers or Deputy Ministers for such unacceptable parliamentary conduct, the Speaker should not be seen to be condoning such irresponsible parliamentary behaviour by coming to their defence publicly claiming that there is nothing in the Standing Orders against such disgraceful Ministerial behaviour.
Mohd Zahir has only himself to blame if his repeated insistence that there is no provision in the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders to prevent Ministers or Deputy Ministers from refusing to answer questions when MPs were demanding a higher standard of Ministerial performance is seen as aiding and abetting such undesirable Ministerial attitudes.
As a five-term Speaker, Mohd Zahir could easily defuse the parliamentary ruckus yesterday, especially as it took place at 5.30 p.m. when the House should stand adjourned. Parliamentary tempers could be cooled by his announcement of the adjournment of the House.
It would appear however that the Speaker was looking for an opportunity to impose a harsh punishment against the Opposition MPs - and Mohd Zahir found yestedayís ruckus too good an opportunity to miss although the Dewan Rakyat was already past its normal 5.30 p.m. adjournment time.
For this reason, Mohd Zahirís harsh three-day suspension of Kerk from the House must be deplored as an unwarranted abuse of the Speakerís powers, exercised in circumstances which could only be seen as condoning irresponsible Ministerial conduct in Parliament in refusing to accord due and proper respect to views expressed by MPs during debates.