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Speaker 'stealing' the people's voice, lawyer says after motion to debate Zahid case dismissed

Rafique Rashid says Parliament is a place for the people to be heard.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Johari Abdul.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Johari Abdul.

A lawyer has hit out at the Dewan Rakyat speaker for going back on his word to allow the opposition to debate a motion on Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's case, describing it as a theft of the space and access given to Malaysians to speak.

The motion, submitted by Machang MP Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal, was rejected by the Dewan Rakyat on Monday.

Deputy speaker Ramli Mohd Nor meanwhile said yesterday that the speaker's decision was final.

Lawyer Rafique Rashid said that the speaker, Johari Abdul, was aware of Article 63 of the Federal Constitution which states the position and privileges of Parliament.

"We exalt Parliament as a place for the people to be heard. The word 'Parliament' itself comes from an old French term which means a place to speak.

"Parliament is a place for the people to speak," he said. 

Zahid, the Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, was brought to court in 2018 alongside former prime minister Najib Razak who is currently serving a 12-year sentence in jail.

He was told to enter his defence last year after High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah ruled that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him for 47 charges of corruption related to Yayasan Akalbudi.

Despite this, he was granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal on Sept 4, sparking a backlash as well as efforts by the opposition to debate the matter in Parliament. 

Rafique said it was important to highlight at the international level why the case of Zahid, who serves as deputy prime minister in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet, could not be questioned in the Dewan Rakyat.

"This is what the people want to ask through their representatives, but they are not allowed," he said. 

When asked about the possibility of legal action against Johari by MPs or other parties for going back on his word, Rafique said none could be taken. 

He said the position of Parliament in Malaysia's national system was ironclad, whereby proceedings, whether at the Dewan Rakyat, Dewan Negara, or any committee by either council could not be questioned in court.

"I am sure the speaker realises this as well but does not want questions raised," he said.

He added that the people could continue to bring attention to the case by criticising or speaking up about it.

"Hopefully, the representatives who support the government will make a more proactive decision so that things like this don't happen again."