A Deputy Speaker from the Opposition?

Two weeks ago, Dato’ Sri Azalina Dato’ Othman Said, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat),[1] mooted the idea that a Member of Parliament from the Federal Opposition should be elected as one of the Deputy Speakers of the Dewan Rakyat (“The Proposal”).[2]

Unfortunately The Proposal, a very novel one in Malaysia’s history and in the context of Malaysian politics, did not receive much consideration by politicians across the political divide.

The Proposal is worthy of further discussion as there is no prohibition against it, it would promote check and balance, and it has international precedent.

No prohibition

There is no prohibition against The Proposal in the Federal Constitution and Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat.

The Federal Constitution merely requires the Deputy Speaker to be a Member of the Dewan Rakyat.[3]

That being the case, theoretically, a Member of the Dewan Rakyat from the Federal Opposition can be elected as one of the two Deputy Speakers.

Promote check & balance

The Deputy Speaker presides over proceedings in the Dewan Rakyat, in the absence of the Speaker.[4]

When doing so, the Deputy Speaker is vested with all  of the powers of the Speaker.[5]

In the past, there have been claims that the Speakers (at different time periods) were biased against Members of Parliament from the Federal Opposition.[6]

A Deputy Speaker from the Federal Opposition could negate or reduce claims of bias, and would act as a check and balance against the Speaker (who more often than not leans in favour of the Federal Government who elected him/her).

Where motions of no-confidence are involved, for example, the Deputy Speaker from the opposition could preside over the tabling, debate, and voting of the motion so as to minimise any apparent (or appearance of) conflict of interest.

International precedent

The Proposal has happened in other countries in the past, mutatis mutandis.

There have been instances of elected representatives from the opposition being elected as Deputy Speakers. Examples include:

i. Ishkhan Saghatelian, Armenia, 2021;[7]

ii. Andrius Mazuronis, Lithuania, 2020;[8]

iii. Peter Slipper, Australia, 2010;[9] and

iv. Michel Bissonnet, Quebec, 1989.[10]

In India and Lithuania, there is arguably a constitutional convention that the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha (in India’s case)[11] and two of the maximum seven Deputy Speakers of the Seimas (in Lithuania’s case)[12] would be elected from the opposition.

Besides that, there is also precedent for an opposition Member of Parliament being elected as Speaker:

i. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, Ghana, 2021;[13] and

ii. Betty Boothroyd, United Kingdom, 1992.[14]

All of the above goes to show that The Proposal deserves serious consideration. It is a shame that The Proposal, a constructive and yet unconventional parliamentary reform, disappeared as quickly as it had arrived on mainstream media.


A Good Example

Out of the blue, Sungai Air Tawar assemblyman Kamarol Zaki Abdul Malik decided to table a motion to discuss hudud and its possible implementation in Selangor

What was more shocking was that Selangor Speaker, Hannah Yeoh decided to allow for the motion to be debated in the state legislative assembly

The Selangor Speaker set a good example by allowing hudud to be debated. After all, it is an issue which has been plaguing Malaysians.

Selangorians would definitely want to hear both sides of the political divide arguing their case

Many felt that the motion was to trap Pakatan Rakyat. If Hannah Yeoh were to disapprove of the motion, she would be labelled as anti-Islam, and afraid to deal with the sensitive issue

Despite being criticised for her decision to allow the motion to be debated, Hannah Yeoh stood firm on her principle of being a neutral and fair Speaker to all parties, and maintained her decision

When a motion was tabled to debate about hudud in Terengganu, the Speaker decided to not allow the matter to come to pass.  Barisan Nasional is capable of pushing for hudud in Terengganu as they form the state government by virtue of having the most seats in the state assembly

Isnt it ironic that UMNO decided to talk about hudud in Selangor when they discarded the very same issue in Terengganu?

Unfortunately, Kamarol Zaki Abdul Malik decided to withdraw the motion in Selangor. This lead to the rakyat questioning the sincerity of UMNO regarding the issue

As Muslims believe hudud to be God’s law, it should not be manipulated for political gains. Such revolting acts only reflect poorly on spirituality of the perpetrator(s)

As if that wasnt enough, Selangor BN put the onus on PAS to push for hudud in Selangor. Talk about looking at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye but not paying attention to the plank in your eyes!

Moving on, it was reported today that 10 written questions submitted by Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (ADUN for Kajang) was rejected by the Selangor state legislative assembly by virtue of exceeding the 40 word limit imposed on each question

Guess who was behind such a bold decision? If you guessed Hannah Yeoh, you are right!

Hannah Yeoh is doing a superb job as a Speaker and is setting a very good precedent for others in a similar position of authority. Her impartiality and strict obedience of the rules is nothing short of praiseworthy!

Ladies and gentlemen, in Hannah Yeoh we have a good example!

*Read it also at The Malaysian Insider and The Malay Mail Online