Uproar in Dewan Rakyat during Finance Ministry wind-up, Speaker boots out Beruas MP

Dewan Rakyat Speaker, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun during the second meeting of the third session of the 14th Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 13, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Dewan Rakyat Speaker, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun during the second meeting of the third session of the 14th Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 13, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 — An uproar in Dewan Rakyat today during the afternoon session led to an Opposition MP being ejected from the House after he thrice refused to take his seat as ordered by Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

DAP’s Beruas MP Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham was told to leave the House while he was trying to seek clarification from Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz on whether or not 101 projects worth RM6.61 billion were awarded through direct negotiations under the then Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

“This [Dewan Rakyat] is the highest voice for the people. I’d like to remind the Speaker he should only chair but not curtail the voices of the MPs,” Ngeh told reporters after he was ejected from the House.

He insisted that he was only trying to ask the finance minister to clarify the projects and accused Azhar of being partial.

“I personally feel that the Speaker has not shown impartiality,” Ngeh said.

He also insisted that Azhar should resign as Speaker for allegedly overstepping his authority.

Ngeh claimed Azhar has been partial to Perikatan Nasional (PN) since the ruling alliance appointed him Dewan Rakyat Speaker.

“It’s best for him to resign since he is repeatedly trying to take PN’s side.

“Once speaking on behalf of the finance minister and now preventing the minister from answering my question,” he said.

Azhar who was formerly chairman of the Election Commission became Dewan Rakyat Speaker on July 13, replacing replaced Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof who was appointed by the previous PH administration.

Today’s parliamentary uproar started when Umno’s Pontian MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan asked the finance minister to clarify if there were “projects” awarded through direct negotiations when PH was government.  

Zafrul affirmed that there were, but said approvals for such projects followed regulations that allowed for exemptions.

He explained the circumstances that allowed for direct negotiations, listing that they had to meet certain criteria, like urgency. As example, he said the projects approved by his predecessor were those that could have affected the government’s interest if they were not allowed to proceed.

“Yes, there were RM6.61 billion worth of projects approved via direct negotiations under the PH government,” Zafrul told the Dewan Rakyat when asked to repeat his reply by several PN MPs.

The PN MPs then jeered at former finance minister Lim Guan Eng with calls proclaiming him to be “great”.

Lim who is Bagan MP stood up to offer his clarification on the approved projects.

“I am open if YB [Zafrul] wishes to provide a list of the tenders which were done through non-open tender because if we look at it, the amount which was awarded through open tenders is far bigger than those which were made through direct negotiations and were made based on criteria which were mentioned by YB [Zafrul] earlier.

“These were also approved by the Cabinet with existing rules. There is nothing to hide,” said Lim, indicating that even Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is aware of the matter.

At this point, Ngeh stood to ask for clarification from Zafrul.

However his request was drowned in the shouting between MPs on both sides disputing the RM6.61 projects that were approved under PH.

In an effort to return order, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim suggested a list of direct negotiation tenders be made public, from when PH was government as well as when PN took over.

“I agree that all lists of tenders be revealed to the public - both PH and PN time,” the Port Dickson MP said.

Anwar was then told off by PN MPs.

“Why should I be answering when the minister is right in front of me, he should be answering,” he responded.

This led to another round of shouting in the House.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali then stood up, claiming Lim’s assertions about contracts awarded through direct negotiation by the PH administration were untrue.

“The same thing happened during PH’s time, the amount is RM6.61 billion and what YB Bagan said is not right, the list was not brought to the Cabinet,” the Gombak MP said.

At this, the atmosphere in the Dewan Rakyat grew more heated with Lim retorting Azmin.

“Gombak, weren’t you in PH that time? Weren’t you? You’re a liar,” said an infuriated Lim. 

Ngeh tried again to interject, but was asked to sit down by the Speaker who also told Zafrul to continue his winding-up speech.

After ordering Ngeh to leave the House, Azhar then warned the other MPs that he would eject them if they wasted time.

“From now on, I want to warn all MPs that whoever is wasting the Dewan Rakyat’s time I will chase you out,” said Azhar. 

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