KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — A commotion broke out momentarily in the Dewan Rakyat this afternoon as the Opposition asked Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to recuse himself from making rulings that concerned Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, claiming potential conflict of interest.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob made his request after a social media post claiming that Mohamad Ariff’s son Lutfi is working as Lim’s press secretary went viral.
“I believe the Speaker is aware that yesterday a social media post went viral, saying that the finance minister’s press secretary has family ties to the honourable Speaker. I hope the Speaker would clarify on this matter,” the Bera MP said in the House.
Mohamad Ariff confirmed the news, but assured the MPs that his son’s employment with Lim who is Bagan MP has nothing to do with his judgment in the House.
“This is not something that I hide. It’s true but my son is 32 years old. He is free to work anywhere. What is important is that I act independently without being biased. I don’t think this is an issue, I think this is normal,” Mohamad Ariff replied the Umno lawmaker.
However, Ismail Sabri countered, saying that the public and other MPs might remain sceptical over Mohamad Ariff’s neutrality, citing as example the recent rejection of the Opposition bloc’s request for Lim to retract his “robbery” claims on the misallocated RM19.4 billion GST refund.
Datuk Seri Ismail Mohamed Said then stood up to back Ismail Sabri, citing Standing Order 35 (6) where a member of the House must declare any possible conflicts of interest when a matter is brought up for debate.
“I would like to ask if the Speaker feels there is any conflict of interest when it comes to Bagan seeing that he employs the Speaker’s son? We know the rule of law,” the Kuala Krai MP said, referring to Lim by his seat name.
“In any meetings, big or small, if the matter involves close family members such as your children, wife or husband, we must declare it.
“I hope the Speaker will take into consideration and not chair the Lower House when a motion to review the Speaker’s decision Bagan be heard in October,” said Ismail Mohamed.
Mohamad Ariff promised that he will not chair that particular meeting, especially since it is a review on his decision.
“I have already made a decision not to chair that review because I am being reviewed. I agree. But when it comes to conflict of interest, I think not. From the judiciary perspective, the rules are very strict.
“As a former judge, I must recuse myself when the decision has a conflict of interest. I would like to convince you (of my independence) but it’s all right if you don’t want to accept it but I will act independently.
“If I am not acting independently, please say something and file a motion. I will recuse myself when the motion is tabled,” promised Mohamad Ariff.