Speaker: Fair, even-handed for democracy to be effective

By P PREM KUMAR & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By BERNAMA

The Dewan Rakyat opened yesterday with the new Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof sounding the need for the country’s parliamentary democracy to bring real benefits to ordinary citizens.

The 69-year-old former Court of Appeal judge said the eminence of the parliamentary institution must be raised for the culture of democracy that Malaysia practises to become more effective, fair and even-handed.

“I will work hard to execute my duties wholeheartedly, and (while being) free from external influence to preserve the dignity and honour of this esteemed house,” said Mohamad Ariff.

He was sworn in yesterday in the august house despite the Opposition MPs objecting to the appointment, claiming failure of the government to observe the house rule.

Mohamad Ariff’s appointment as the 10th speaker of the house did not start on a sound footing. When the Dewan Rakyat secretary Datuk Roosme Hamzah read out the proclamation to appoint the new speaker, Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan stood up with a point-of-order to stop the process.

Roosme continued the proclamation despite the standing protest by Takiyuddin — who was later joined by almost all PAS and Umno MPs. The Opposition bloc then staged a walk-out, claiming discrepancies in the naming process.

Despite the objection, Mohamad Ariff vowed to be even-handed in carrying out his duties.

Takiyuddin said the Dewan Rakyat secretary was supposed to be notified with a speaker’s candidate 14 days before the swearing in, but various reports have indicated that the government had only finalised Mohamad Ariff for the position just this week.

Roosme maintained that the government had sent in a notice to name Mohamad Ariff on July 2 — which was exactly 14 days before July 16.

Dr Mahathir said there were no discrepancies in the process. He also denied any backdating to the nomination letter.

“No backdate, it was prepared earlier. So, when I assigned, I put the date,” he told reporters before leaving the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Dr Mahathir also said the government was practical-minded in nominating Mohamad Ariff as the speaker, despite Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto which outlined the speaker would be an MP.

“Please remember that the manifesto is not a bible. It is a guidance. Sometimes, we can do certain things, sometimes we find that we cannot. So, we have to be practical-minded. But I think the public likes to have somebody who is not related to any party,” he said.

Batu Pahat MP Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon and Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming were elected as the two deputy Dewan Rakyat speakers. Both names were proposed by Dr Mahathir after the swearing in of all 221 elected represen- tatives in the Dewan Rakyat.

Pagoh MP Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was exempted as he is currently recuperating from a medical procedure.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had proposed Beluran MP Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee. He, however, failed to garner enough votes.

Starting his career in 1974 as a law lecturer and subsequently an associate professor of the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya, Mohamad Ariff ventured into legal practice as an advocate and solicitor in 1986.

He was one of the founding partners of Messrs Cheang & Ariff. In 1993, he took leave from legal practice to join the then newly formed Securities Commission of Malaysia and became the first director of its Market Supervision Department.

In September 2008, Mohamad Ariff was appointed as a Judicial Commissioner of the High Court of Malaya and later a Judge of the High Court of Malaya in October 2009. In September 2012, he became a Judge of the Court of Appeal.

He returned to Cheang & Mohamad Ariff as a consultant after his retirement as a Court of Appeal judge in early 2015. Mohamad Ariff was also on the Asian International Arbitration Centre’s panel of arbitrators.