Cover Story, Current Affairs

Motion of no confidence against PM should be first in the Dewan Rakyat agenda

Media Statement by Member of Parliament for Beruas, Dato’ Ngeh Koo Ham on 18 October 2020:

Interpretation by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker that he has no power to give priority to the Motion of No Confidence against the Prime Minister is flawed and against the legal position in Malaysia. Motion of No Confidence against the Prime Minister should be first in the agenda of the Dewan Rakyat sitting.

I am shocked and appalled by the view expressed by the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, Datuk Azhar bin Azizan Harun that he has no power to speed up the debate on the Motion of No Confidence against the Prime Minister.

Screenshot of a Malay Mail article on Azhar’s statement

His view is clearly flawed, if not perverse, defying logic and against the current legal position in Malaysia. If his view is correct, then no Motion of No Confidence can ever be brought before the Dewan Rakyat for a vote if the Prime Minister decides that such a motion cannot be allowed to surface. Datuk Azhar has made the Parliament subservient to the Executive when the democratic system under our Federal Constitution requires the Executive to be answerable to Parliament.

The legal position in Malaysia on this issue is clear. The motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister (and therefore, his government) takes precedence over all other matters in Parliament. As rightly pointed out by Professor Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi, the Speaker must not hide behind the Standing Order of the Dewan Rakyat which is not even law but rules governing the internal meetings of the Dewan Rakyat.

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The Standing Order cannot regulate or control matters provided in the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of our land. The Speaker must be reminded that he and all the Members of Parliament have taken an oath to uphold and protect the Federal Constitution and not the Standing Order of the Dewan Rakyat.

Article 43(4) of the Federal Constitution provides that if the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat, then, unless at his request the Yang Di Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.

For more than 40 years since the case of the first Chief Minister of Sarawak, Stephen Kalong Ningkan v Government of Malaysia (1968) 1 MLJ 119 until the Perak crisis in 2009, it has been settled law that the only place to determine whether a Chief Minister, Menteri Besar or Prime Minister has the majority support of the House was to be determined by a vote in the House (State Assembly or Dewan Rakyat). However, the position was altered in the Perak crisis case of Dato’ Seri Ir Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin v Dato’ Seri Dr Zambri Abdul Kadir (2010) 2 CLJ 925 where it was decided that the majority support may also be determined by other method outside the House.

Beruas MP, Dato’ Ngeh Koo Ham.

Despite the shift in the legal position, it is however clear that the Dewan Rakyat is still an avenue to determine if a Prime Minister commands the majority support of the members of the House. In fact, this is the best avenue as we can see after the case of Dato’ Seri Ir Hj Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin v Dato’ Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir, the appointment of a Chief Minister, Menteri Besar or Prime Minister has become a bit chaotic. We see Tan Sri Musa Aman in Sabah appointed Chief Minister after a general election and within less than 48 hours Dato’ Seri Shafie Apdal was appointed the new Chief Minister. Uncertainty prevails after Dato’ Seri Shafie Apdal was appointed the new Chief Minister. Such uncertainty also overshadows the appointment of the new Menteri Besars of Johore, Perak and Kedah and the appointment of the new Chief Minister of Malacca. The appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the new Prime Minister of Malaysia also faces a similar predicament. The current scenario is also attributed to the current legal position where elected representatives are allowed to shift their allegiance to other political parties.

A video of Azhar Harun from 2015 contradicts his own stance today

The current state of the law encourages horse trading even when the House is not in session. This is most unhealthy. I would like to remind Datuk Azhar that by convention a Motion of No Confidence against the Prime Minister is to be fixed as the first item on the agenda for the day in Parliament. This is because there is no purpose of Members of Parliament going through other items of the agenda if the government is going to fall.

A Motion of No Confidence against a Prime Minister must not be treated as a private member business subservient to government business (the position taken by Datuk Azhar) but a matter determining whether the government answerable to Parliament should still be the government of the day. Therefore, I call on Dato’ Azhar to be honourable and follow the law of the land rather to take side by using personal interpretation to protect the government that installed him to be the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat.

Dato’ Ngeh Koo Ham,
Member of Parliament for Beruas
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