The election of Speaker should
be postponed by 48 hours to allow for a free, open and democratic election
process to eradicate the image of Parliament as a rubber stamp of the
Executive as well as to strengthen and not undermine the transformation of
the Malaysian Parliament into a First World Parliament
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I am shocked that the Barisan Nasional candidate for Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib has accused me of deliberately trying to embarrass him by raising issues completely irrelevant to the election of the Speaker (Nanyang Siang Pau) when I had said that there were two things he should do before the reconvening of Parliament on Monday to elect the Speaker, viz:
Is Ramli seriously suggesting whether the Parliament Speaker is a person of impeccable integrity and undoubted incorruptibility is a completely irrelevant question?
In refusing to come clean and open on these two issues, Ramli is doing himself a great disservice as he has not only raised eyebrows, but nagging questions about his suitability to be Speaker of a Parliament whose greatest challenge must be to take the quantum leap to become a First-World Parliament to lead the country into the “fully-developed nation” culture and environment of “First-World Infrastructure, First-World Mentality” as well as being a leading player to support the pledge and campaign of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in an all-out war against corruption.
It is clear that Ramli had not given enough thought to the new and challenging tasks of a Malaysian Parliament Speaker in the new millennium and he should share his vision and ideas of a First-World Parliament as well as a First-World Parliament Speaker with the 219 MPs to enable them to make an informed decision and choice as to who should be the new Speaker – based on the qualities and vision of the candidate and not on the Party Whip and directive.
The election of Speaker should be postponed by 48 hours to allow for a free, open and democratic election process to eradicate the image of Parliament as a rubber stamp of the Executive and to strengthen and not undermine the transformation of the Malaysian Parliament into a First World Parliament
Up to now, Members of Parliament have neither been officially informed by Parliament that they could submit nominations for the Speakership, nor the details of the nominations received so far.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has said that all the Barisan Nasional MPs had been instructed to attend Monday’s parliamentary sitting to vote for Ramli as Speaker as he is the government's choice for Speaker.
The 48-hour postponement of the election of the Speaker will allow the situation to be properly clarified that MPs, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, should be allowed to vote according to their conscience and best judgment as to which candidate is the best person to be Speaker to spearhead a wide-ranging programme of parliamentary reform and modernization to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a first-world Parliament, without being bound by the Party whip or directive.
In the Australian Parliament early this week, the choice of the Prime Minister, John Howard for the post of Speaker lost out in a contest by five interested candidates, resulting in a “dark horse”, David Hawker, being elected as Speaker of Australian Parliament.
The important point here is that MPs must have the freedom and independence to decide who should be the Parliament Speaker and the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, who can have their preferences, should not impose their will on the House – as it would mean the subservience not only of the Speaker but Parliament itself to the Executive, contrary to the doctrine of the separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.
The 48-hour postponement will also allow MPs to find out from both Ramli and Seng Giaw their vision, ideas, commitment and passion for parliamentary reform and modernization to restore Parliament’s role as the highest deliberative and legislative chamber of the land and end its dishonourable history as a mere rubber stamp of the Executive.
I have studied the Parliamentary Standing Orders and am satisfied that a 48-hour postponement of the election of Speaker when Parliament meets on Monday is permissible under the rules, as the Dewan Rakyat presently has two Deputy Speakers who can continue to preside over the parliamentary meetings during the interim.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman