Rais Yatim says no convention for him to quit Bersatu after appointed Dewan Negara president

Dewan Negara Speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim speaks to reporters at a press conference at Parliament September 2, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Dewan Negara Speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim speaks to reporters at a press conference at Parliament September 2, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 ― Newly-appointed Yang di-Pertua Dewan Negara Tan Sri Rais Yatim said there was no need for him to resign from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Rais added that he is mainly an adviser, in addition to his position as former Negri Sembilan Bersatu chief.

“My immediate predecessor Tan Sri SA Vigneswaran did not resign from his post as MIC president while serving in the Dewan Negara, so there is no need for me to do so as well,” he said during a press conference.

This follows suggestions from Opposition senators like DAP’s Liew Chin Tong for Rais to do so, as it would show impartiality and set a good example for later generations of senators.

“The question [of resigning from party positions] is not relevant due to the convention mentioned earlier.

“Nonetheless, I am in accord with Datuk Seri Abdul Halim that we should prioritise the Senate above all else for the sake of the nation,” he said, referring to the Dewan Negara deputy president.

When asked to comment about the claim that his appointment was not in line with the Dewan Negara’s Standing Orders or the Federal Constitution, Rais disagreed.

“Since Independence the prime minister has always nominated the position from among the senators, from 1959 to the present, including when Singapore left the Federation (in 1965).

“What Datuk Takiyuddin said earlier is correct; the prime minister as the Head of the Council of both the Dewan Negara and the Dewan Rakyat is not exempted from nominating a candidate,” he said, referring to de facto law minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan.

Rais also said none of the Dewan Negara’s Standing Orders prohibits the prime minister from forwarding the nomination via his minister, as seen when Muhyiddin delegated the task to Takiyuddin.

“The delegation is legally valid, since the Delegation of Powers Act 1956 is still in force. Therefore the argument that the prime minister cannot do so is based more on idealism and not on substantiveness,” he said.

Rais’ candidacy and appointment was earlier disputed by DAP’s Senator Nga Hock Cheh on the grounds that Muhyiddin is a member of the Dewan Rakyat and not the Dewan Negara, and as such had no authority to nominate Rais.

He was also asked if he had discussed his candidacy with Umno’s Senator Datuk Seri Muhammad Ali Mohammad, who was originally that party’s candidate as president before they reported decided to support Rais.

“Yes, there was a letter yesterday from Melaka Umno nominating Datuk Seri Muhammad as candidate.

“However, I believe at the last moment Umno’s leadership felt it would be awkward, as they are a part of PN and it would be unseemly to nominate their own candidate while the prime minister has already done so as well,” he said.

Rais added that he thinks this may have also been the reason why Parti Warisan Sabah’s Datuk Theodore Douglas Lind’s candidacy was also withdrawn prior to the voting.

“I would like to thank the Umno leadership and many of my old friends in that party, who have displayed a strong sense of friendship and responsibility in supporting me.

“Similarly I would also like to thank my fellow senators including [PKR senator] Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff, Theodore Douglas, and Muhammad Ali, whom I believe will carry out their duties to the best of their responsibilities. Let us now focus on upholding the Dewan Negara as an august body and a symbol of hope,” he said.

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