Squabble erupts in Dewan Rakyat on final day

pic by TMR FILE

THERE was no shortage of drama on the final sitting day in Parliament yesterday as lawmakers engaged in a fiery verbal altercation that have become synonymous with the Dewan Rakyat.

MPs from both sides of the political divide were at loggerheads for a good half an hour before the afternoon break, as members from the Opposition questioned the impartiality of Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof over his recent ruling on Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

At the height of tension, Tan Sri Annuar Musa (picture) (Barisan Nasional or BN-Ketereh) called for greater order in the Lower House, saying Parliament is not a “battlefield between us and them”, but a place where representatives come to confer and engage in sensible discussions.

Annuar, who is also Umno secretary general, said MPs who have “made it a habit” to disrupt the order of business in Dewan Rakyat should be identified and advised in private by the speaker to which Mohamad Ariff agreed. “That is a sound opinion. In some countries, the Opposition bloc is referred to as the minority group, versus the majority group.

“Maybe this can be considered and help set the right mindset in the House,” Mohamad Ariff told the Dewan Rakyat.

The crude episode was in stark contrast of the historic feat accorded on Tuesday (July 16) where bipartisanship was achieved to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

The bill, which was tabled by the Pakatan Harapan government, saw 211 lawmakers endorsing the changes with no objection.

The endorsement to the constitutional amendment, which has been hailed as a historic moment, came exactly a year after the first session of the Parliament under the Pakatan Harapan administration.

Earlier, BN MPs were given the liberty to express their grouses after Mohamad Ariff ruled out a motion to refer Lim to the Rights and Privileges Committee over the latter’s remarks that RM14.9 billion in Goods and Services Tax refunds were “stolen” by the previous administration.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) implied that there is a conflict of interest in Mohamad Ariff’s decision as his son is working for Lim.

“It is not something that I have hidden. My son is 31 or 32 now, and he is free to work anywhere. More importantly, I act freely and uninfluenced in this House. I don’t think this is an issue,” Mohamad Ariff said in reply to Ismail Sabri.

“On whether it is a conflict of interest, I think not. From the judiciary perspective, the rules are very strict. As a former judge, I must recuse myself when the decision has a conflict of interest. I would like to assure you of my independence and I will do my very best to act accordingly.

“If I am not acting independently, please advise and file a motion. I will recuse myself when the motion is tabled,” he added.

Ismail Sabri later confirmed that Mohamad Ariff would not chair the House if the matter is debated in the next sitting, which is slated to commence in October.