Appointment of new speaker breach of convention

(Bernama) – Despite the chaos that reigned at the six-hour Perak assembly sitting today, a new speaker was appointed and four motions were passed.

And the appointment as well as the motions passed was all valid, according to Umno Legal Advisor Datuk Hafarizam Harun and lawyer Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who represents the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in court cases the ongoing Perak constitutional crisis.

The four motions were to remove V Sivakumar as the speaker; to appoint former Sungkai assemblyperson Datuk R Ganesan as the new speaker; to appoint new state committee members and to declare the "under-the-tree" assembly illegal.

Hafarizam said the removal of former speaker Sivakumar was valid as the motion was filed more than 14 days before the sitting and therefore it had to be deliberated and decided on in today's sitting.

"Under the Standing Orders, any motion brought more than 14 days must be tabled for the Dewan to be decided upon.

"Article 36A (1) (b) stipulates that in the absence of a speaker, the deputy speaker shall preside until the appointment of a new speaker, and Hee (Yit Foong) filled in so it was a proper appointment," he told Bernama when contacted after the sitting today.

On the Pakatan coalition's claims that the assembly was illegal, Hafarizam said there was royal consent for the sitting and the meeting had also been gazetted.

"Furthermore, BN has 31 votes and the simple majority rule dictates that the motions passed today are all valid as was the sitting," he said.

He said Article 72 of the Federal Constitution also gave immunity to the sitting and the motions passed under the Dewan today cannot be challenged in court.

Sivakumar had earlier argued that the suspension of Menteri Besar Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six BN executive councillors was made in his capacity as the chairperson of the privileges and the special rights committee and not as the speaker.

As the Federal Court decision was based on his standing as a speaker, the matter was inapplicable, he claimed.

Muhammad Shafee said Sivakumar's claim was invalid because the latter issued the show cause letter to suspend Zambry and the six BN councillors in his capacity as a speaker.

"It was also because he was the speaker that he was able to occupy the position of chairperson (for the committee) so it is all tied up," he rebutted.

Muhammad Shafee said in any case, the Speaker cannot suspend any members of the Dewan for more than a day.

"He has to refer it to the assembly in order to get it properly done, he did not do that and the court had ruled the "sitting" under the tree as invalid," he said when contacted today.

Muhammad Shafee also brushed off Sivakumar's claim that the three "BN-friendly" independent representatives should not be attending the assembly as there was a legal suit by Sivakumar against them still pending in court.

"The Election Commission (had decided they still held their positions in the Dewan) and even the court had ruled that they never resigned, because it was a pre-signed (resignation) letter which was legally invalid," he said.     

It's invalid

Meanwhile, constitutional law lecturer from the International Islamic University Assoc Prof Dr Sharahayu Abd Aziz said that in order for a new speaker to be appointed, the motion to remove him must be heard and then deliberated upon.

However, she said, the motion was rejected by the speaker and was therefore invalid.

"It shows us how much power is given to the Speaker, so much so that he can refuse to hear the motion.

"This is similar to the Dewan Rakyat when Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim puts forth numerous motions, but if the speaker does not want to hear it, he (Anwar) has no choice but to sit down and keep quiet because the hearing of the motions have been rejected, so the final word is with the Speaker," she said.

On the immediate appointment of the new speaker, Shamrahayu said there was no provisions in the Standing Order that detailed whether or not it was permissible.

She said normally, the appointment would take place after a deliberation by the Dewan and in another ceremony.

"In constitutional law, what is the normal practice should be followed, so I am inclined to say that this is a breach of convention," she said.