KUALA LUMPUR: IS there a tussle between opposing camps in Pakatan Harapan (PH) concerning the appointment of the new Dewan Rakyat speaker?
Sources from within the ruling coalition and word on the ground reveal disagreements over candidates for the all-important post, which will become the face of Malaysia’s legislature in this brand new term.
One name being bandied about is Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim, a former Barisan Nasional cabinet minister who broke ranks with the party when he openly supported PH in the 14th General Election.
Rais, 76, has held ministerial portfolios under five prime ministers, including stints as foreign, information and de facto law ministers.
He is seen as the front runner based on his background as a lawyer, experience in government and for being a widely respected veteran lawmaker.
His entry into the PH fold has come in quick succession after he was supportive of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PH in the weeks leading up to GE14, which earned scorn from many witin Umno.
Almost a month after being sacked by Umno, and after PH took over the Federal Government, Rais was made a member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia on June 4.
Sources told the New Straits Times that Rais was Dr Mahathir’s choice as Dewan Rakyat speaker.
However, the choice was not well received by other top leaders in PH.
They were supportive of DAP’s Segambut member of parliament Hannah Yeoh.
If this happens, Yeoh, who is former Selangor state assembly speaker, could be the first woman in that post.
“They do not agree with the prime minister’s choice, that is why the appointment is taking so long.
“This is where BN and Umno come into play. Dr Mahathir’s candidate for speaker can be appointed if he gets the majority support, be it from the government or the opposition,” said the source.
Dr Mahathir made efforts to bring in support from Umno and BN when he met Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on June 7.
Rais, being a former Umno leader, could be enticement enough for Umno’s 54 members of parliament to vote in favour of him when Dewan Rakyat convenes on July 16.
The source said Dr Mahathir also needed to appease certain PH supporters by making sure that the post went to a Malay Muslim.
“This is important after the flak the government received over the appointment of Tommy Thomas as the country’s first non-Malay and non-Muslim attorney-general.”
Rais did not respond to calls and text messages.
Yeoh said she was unaware that there had been protests against Dr Mahathir’s choice of Rais to become speaker.
“Best not to speculate and wait for official announcement by leadership... I better not comment, lah,” said Yeoh in a text message to the NST.
The speaker is elected when Parliament convenes for the first time after a general election, and the names of candidates must be submitted 14 days prior to the voting process.
A candidate for speaker must be nominated and seconded by at least two members of parliament other than himself. This nomination process must be conducted at least 14 days before the election of the speaker.
The Dewan Rakyat speaker is appointed based on Clause (1) (a) Article 57 of the Federal Constitution.
The speaker need not be a member of the house to be elected.
This means that both MPs or non-MPs are qualified to be speaker.
Both sides of the political divide are allowed to submit a name to become a candidate for the post.
There have only been two occasions in the past 13 terms of parliament where there was an election for the post.
If only one candidate meets the required conditions, he is automatically elected speaker. Otherwise, voting by secret ballot needs to be done.
The winner is decided by a simple majority in the 222-member house.
Council of Former Elected Representatives (Mubarak) president Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Rahman said the speaker must be someone who was seen to be fair to all and had earned the respect of parliamentarians to conduct the session judiciously.
Aziz said the speaker must have the necessary knowledge and experience.
“Rais has a vast experience, both as a member of the government as well as the opposition.
“He was an Umno member before joining Semangat 46, then back to Umno. Now, he is member of PPBM,” he said commenting on talks that the Umno veteran is the prime minister’s candidate for speaker.
Most PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara leaders the NST spoke to were divided on their choice of speaker.
Wanita PH head Zuraida Kamaruddin said she supported a woman as the speaker.
She said Yeoh, 39, had the qualifications, but the prime minister’s had the final say.
“Hannah has proven to have the experience to become speaker since she was Selangor state assembly speaker.”
Johor PAN secretary Suhaizan Kaiat, however, was all for a woman being one of the two deputy speakers.
“Maybe a woman should not be put in the top post, but a leader like Yeoh could become deputy speaker.”
PKR lawmaker Fahmi Fadzil said: “The most important thing is that the speaker must have calibre, have the drive to reform the institution or parliament, and is neutral and professional.” -- Additional reporting by Tasnim Lokman
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