Azhar: Speaker doesn’t decide on priority for confidence motions

(FMT) – Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun has dismissed claims that he has changed his stance on a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister.

He said today it was not up to the speaker of the house to decide whether to give priority to a confidence motion, and this was current parliamentary practice even in other Commonwealth countries.

His remarks came in the wake of an old video clip being circulated on social media, in which he spoke about private member’s bills and confidence motions.

The 2015 video clip was part of a talk show, “Art of the Matter”, produced by The Malaysian Insight, in which Azhar explained why a private member’s bill had been delayed by the speaker.

Azhar had said government bills would take precedence before non-government matters. He went to say: “Now, can the speaker do that in respect of a no-confidence vote? The answer is ‘no’. Because, again, by constitutional practice, a motion of no-confidence must be brought first on the list. That is by convention or constitutional practice. It is not by law.”

Speaking to FMT today, Azhar said that the video clip only reinforces his current stand that government business in the Dewan Rakyat will take precedence over other matters.

Referring to the video clip, he said: “Yes, I did say the constitutional practice and convention would dictate that the motion of no-confidence would be listed first. Yes, I did say that. I’m not denying that.

“But the question is how? People say it is listed first by the speaker; I have demonstrated that the speaker does not have the power to do so.”

He had also stated this in recent correspondence with Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who had requested a “guarantee” that a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would be raised at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

Azhar said the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat, parliamentary practice in Australia as well as UK constitutional conventions – which Malaysian civil society groups say is applicable here – did not provide the speaker of the house the power to decide on putting a non-government motion first.

“In the UK, a motion of no-confidence will be listed first if the government accedes to the request of the opposition leader to do so,” he said. Similarly, in Australia, it was up to the relevant minister to decide if a motion of no-confidence is listed first.

“In Malaysia, Standing Order 14(2) states a no-confidence motion can be prioritised if the minister (responsible for parliamentary matters) moves a motion for it to be heard or debated above everything else.

“So I have not denied what I said before. I said convention would dictate that the motion would be listed first, but how is this done? It is not done by the speaker acceding to a request but for the government to accede to the request,” said Azhar.