By Tunku Abdul Aziz, MySinChew
A Dewan Rakyat Speaker I happened to know many years ago before Mahathir imposed his will on every facet of the institutional life of the country, with predictable consequences, remarked that the position he occupied was more than a job. It was a sacred, conscious personal commitment to be always scrupulously fair and unbiased. The sole object of ensuring the dignity and sanctity of the House had always to be kept firmly etched in mind. He said he looked upon his country’s parliament as the Temple of Democracy, and that he was its High Priest. He was a person of a scholarly bent, and steeped in the parliamentary tradition and practice of the Mother of Parliament.
I am of an age to remember the succession of men who presided over the Dewan Rakyat, as well as the Dewan Negara. They were men of integrity and refinement, gentlemen all, and no one could have accused any of them of being biased in favour of the ruling party that had appointed them. They, when presiding over the House, were guided solely by the need to uphold the honour and dignity of the House as well as their own. They possessed exemplary personal qualities to begin with, and comparing even the worst among them with the incumbent holder of that high and prestigious office would be invidious. It is totally repugnant and enormously offensive to my sense of what is fair.
His record as Mr. Speaker is a total disgrace and has turned the Parliament of Malaysia into an object of fun and ridicule. He has completely lost the respect of all fair-minded people, and for sheer incompetence and arrogance he typifies the proverbial square peg in a round hole. His is a case of the administration giving in to political expediency when more honest and mature political judgements should have guided the decision on the appointment of the Speaker of the House. My advice to the Speaker who is now reduced to the category of the “walking wounded” due to self-inflicted injury caused by shooting in the foot, and mouth, on every conceivable occasion, is that he should consider seriously stepping down so that the dignity of the House may be restored. He has failed in his duty by all accounts, and should accept that he is a total misfit for a position requiring qualities that he will never acquire in a million years.
To the politically biased, it is all too tempting to blame members of the opposition for reacting robustly to the Speaker’s diabolically provocative and heavy handed “interventions” bordering on intimidation. But that is to ignore the fact that the House is as good as the Speaker. After all, he sets the tone of the House and the standards of parliamentary behaviour. He obviously believes that he is there to please his political masters; another consequence of Mahathir’s onslaught on the all-important doctrine of the separation of powers. The Speaker has become a willing partner and complicit in the not too subtle plan of demolishing the last vestiges of the independence of the legislature. In the process he has fritted away the moral and ethical underpinnings of an ancient institution, first established all those centuries ago in England to protect citizens’ rights. To do his work effectively, he must earn the respect of the members on both sides of the floor by carrying out his duty in strict accordance with the dictates of fairness and equity. That he has blatantly ignored and buried this important principle for good, thus making utter mockery of what is the most important democratic institution of the nation, puts his moral fitness for high office in serious doubt.