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Motion of no confidence: Shouldn’t common sense prevail above rules and regulations?

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Malaysians want the question of the legitimacy of this government to be settled at all costs immediately, P Ramakrishnan writes.

The Perikatan Nasional government is tottering on the verge of collapse. At this juncture, it is of utmost importance to determine whether it has the support of the majority in Parliament. It cannot pretend that everything is alright when it is not.

With the slimmest majority, it is on dangerous ground. It just takes two MPs to cross over and it will tumble like Humpty Dumpty. It can’t survive or perform in such a precarious position

At this crucial moment, debating government bills on a priority basis will be a waste of time. When PN is defeated – which is more than likely – the next government is not obliged to implement whatever that has been passed by Parliament. The new government will have its own policies and priorities for the nation.

Common sense, therefore, would have it that we must first settle the crucial question of confidence in the backdoor PN government. Its legitimacy must be established as a matter of urgency. Only then can government bills be debated in Parliament. Otherwise it will be like putting the cart before the horse!

The Speaker, Azhar Azizan Harun, may claim we must go by the order paper and therefore refuse debate on the motion of no confidence against the prime minister. According to him, a minister must be persuaded to move the House to give precedence to the motion of no confidence – otherwise it cannot be debated on the first day of Parliament on 2 November 2020. It will take a minister of impeccable character to make such a move in the interest of parliamentary democracy. Is there any in our parliament?

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The Speaker’s stance is very contradictory to his former stand when he wasn’t part of the establishment in 2015.

Didn’t he then say? “Now, can the speaker do that – (refusing priority) – 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,” he said in the talk show that was uploaded on 10 September 2015.”

In other words, it is possible to debate the motion of no confidence as the first item when Parliament convenes on 2 November 2020.

But now he is adopting an opposite view that is alarming and baffling.

This is what native American natives would say, rightly, “speaking with a forked tongue” – when you don’t live up to your word.

But there is a way out. It calls for common sense to prevail so that this all-important motion of no confidence will have precedence over the government business.

The question arises whether there will be a single conscientious minister among the ranks of the PN cabinet who will rise up to this occasion as a matter of moral obligation. Will such a courageous minister move this motion out of respect for the democratic process so that this issue of confidence will be addressed and settled in the democratic tradition?

Quoting the Standing Orders to prevent debate on the motion of no confidence is the cowardly way of preventing the issue from being addressed. Falling back on the rules and regulations is another way of suppressing what must be tackled immediately.

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The Speaker now wanting to do things by the book is hypocritical and unbecoming of him! Has he forgotten how undemocratically he assumed the chair of the Speaker? He wasn’t voted on or elected as Speaker. There are many Malaysians who consider his position untenable because he didn’t go through the democratic process to occupy the chair of the Speaker.

He had cited the UK and Australia to justify his stand in not allowing the motion of no confidence to be tabled as a matter of urgency. Can he also tell us, is this the way Speakers in these countries were elected as he was?

He is being a stickler for rules and regulations now. But the rule requiring 14 days’ notice to notify a vacancy for the Speaker’s post was sidestepped. Were the MPs given an opportunity to forward the names of their nominees, as required in the Standing Orders?

How come, when it came to matters concerning him, the rules could be set aside and completely ignored? Was there any provision for this to be ignored in the much-quoted Standing Orders?

Rules were trampled upon with impunity. No minister moved any motion to allow for this unprecedented practice to ‘install’ the Speaker and deny others from being considered as possible candidates for the Speaker’s position.

In Britain, at one time there was also an MP from the ranks of the Opposition Labour Party who was elected the Speaker of the British Parliament. Can you imagine a ruling party with a majority in parliament allowing an Opposition MP to be the speaker! This is something which can never happen in our lifetime in Malaysia – simply because we cannot rise above our pettiness!

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Malaysians want the question of the legitimacy of this government to be settled at all costs immediately. If there is no single minister of courage and conviction to initiate this crucial debate, it means one thing – and that is, this backdoor government is scared like hell to subject itself to this test. It knows that it will not survive a motion of no confidence – and therefore does not dare take this risk.

Anwar Ibrahim, the man claiming to have ‘strong and formidable’ support in Parliament, should be allowed to move this motion of no confidence against the PN government. If the motion is carried, the backdoor government will be shown the exit through the front door! If the motion is defeated, then Anwar should accept the reality and forget about toppling the government.

We are in this quandary because of greed and power. It is this determination to remain and retain power by hook or by crook that has become an obstacle for common sense to prevail and resolve this serious matter amicably.

Remember what the famous law professor and author Steven Redhead said: “Those that wish to control you will always try to limit your options or eliminate legitimate choices.”

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