Anwar and Dewan Rakyat Speaker cross swords over time limit for minister’s winding-up session

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur November 2, 2020. — Bernama pic
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur November 2, 2020. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today rapped Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun on the knuckles over the latter’s apparently “too strict” time ruling on debate sessions in Parliament.

Anwar said the Speaker’s decision to halt an MP from speaking up during a minister’s winding-up session is not the way a debate should be conducted in the Dewan Rakyat.

“I apologise, but Speaker, your position is too strict as so many wish to speak up about a controversial matter. Two minutes is very important.

“Please think, Speaker; I repeat that this place is not a place where you just listen but for debates.

“But if you are so strict to this extent, no flexibility, even for an extra five minutes, what is to happen? So many wanted to stand up to speak but can’t,” he told the Speaker at the end of Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin’s winding-up speech which was brought to an abrupt end by the Speaker.

Azhar had in return said he understood Anwar’s position, only to be lambasted by the Port Dickson MP, who insisted that the Speaker failed to comprehend the situation.

“Yang di-Pertua, you always say you understand, but you don’t understand!

“If you understand, you should allow at least seven to eight minutes extra,” said Anwar.

Azhar however reasoned that the debate session had ended and that the winding-up session was only for MPs wishing to seek clarification.

This sparked an uproar in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Debate session is over. Now it’s time for winding up. Interjection, following the Standing Order is only allocated for clarification purposes, not debating purposes.

“We gave an opportunity for the minister to answer. If an MP stands up to interject and ask for clarification, and the mInister allows it, that can be done. But if not allowed, it cannot be done.

“But even if it’s allowed, it’s only clarification. Not for debating, debate has ended. The minister has listened to all debates and now it’s time for the minister to answer. This is how it’s done.

“I’m sorry Port Dickson, not that I don’t understand, I understand,” said Azhar.

Anwar instead said Azhar was obstructing MPs from speaking despite the minister preparing to answer questions seeking clarification on issues raised during the winding-up session.

“The minister was already getting ready to answer, but you keep saying stop, stop, stop,” he said.

Azhar however maintained his stand that the debate session was over and that is how the Parliament sitting is conducted.

On Monday, Anwar had raised a similar concern and pushed Azhar to allow more than 80 MPs to enter the House to hear and participate in ministers’ winding-up speeches on Budget 2021.

Anwar also described the allotted time of only 20 minutes for each speech as unreasonable.

His comments come after the Speaker ruled that only 80 MPs are allowed inside the Dewan Rakyat at any one time and for only 20 minutes during ministers’ winding-up speeches for their ministries on Budget 2021.

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