KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 ― Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun gave an assurance today that he will do the necessary after an Opposition MP’s parliamentary privilege against legal immunity was threatened.
The Opposition bench had earlier called on Azhar to intervene and uphold Parliament’s independence after Sepanggar MP Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman was summoned for police questioning over a speech he made in the Dewan Rakyat expressing his dissatisfaction with Putrajaya’s Budget 2022 allocation for Sabah.
“I will review the Hansard on YB Sepanggar’s speech. I view the matter seriously and I will communicate with the relevant parties so that the rights of MPs to debate in the House will be upheld,” Azhar said.
Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng had earlier raised a point of order concerning Standing Order 36(10) in regards to the speech and its content as made by Mohd Azis in Parliament on November 8.
Standing Order 36(10) refers to the disallowed usage of concerning treasonable words, seditious words and words which are likely to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities in the Federation or infringe any provision of the Constitution or the Sedition Act were disallowed.
“I am referring to this Standing Order because Sepanggar MP was yesterday investigated by the police over a speech he made which was never objected by anyone including the House Speaker.
“We do not understand why the special privilege to give a speech in Parliament is belittled and can even be considered an insult with a police investigation underway which we assume is a form of intimidation against the Opposition in particular,” Lim said.
Under Section 7 of the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act, members are accorded immunity from civil or criminal proceedings for anything done or said before the House.
Lim, who is from DAP, pointed out that the secession remarks made by his Warisan colleague was only reflecting the sentiment of Sabahans who saw themselves as being treated unfairly.
He added that government backbencher and Keningau MP Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan made similar expressions but saw no action taken against him.
In his speech, Kitingan claimed that some 60 per cent of East Malaysians wanted Sabah and Sarawak to withdraw from the Malaysian federation as they were disappointed with the development funds allocated in Budget 2022.
“In fact, we do not see any police action taken against certain organisations or individuals who have openly stated for the closure of vernacular schools, what more an MP who spoke in Parliament and was not objected by anyone,” Lim said.
“It was absolutely clear that he did not explicitly state the secession of Sabah from the Federation,” he added, this time referring to Mohd Azis.
“We in the Opposition want to object to the action taken by the police because this portrayed the police as a political tool to intimidate and threaten the roles played by Opposition MPs.”
Lim asked Azhar to make a ruling compelling law enforcers to refer to the parliamentary Speaker before acting against an MP for any speech made in the House.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim seconded Lim’s motion, saying that obstructing and threatening an MP simply for expressing views in the House would create a dangerous precedent.
The Port Dickson MP said he had read Mohd Azis’s speech text and subsequently found nothing which could be deemed a treasonable offence.
He said Parliament had its own way of dealing with MPs who made controversial speeches, such as referring them to the privileges committee if they stepped out of line.
“If the Speaker adopts the interpretation considered excessive according to the police, then this will impede our freedom. Besides, Parliament has its methods of taking action against any MPs who violate the rules of the House.
“I am motioning for the Speaker to intervene,” Anwar said.
Mohd Azis said he was shocked when he was called up by the police merely for expressing the discontent felt by Sabahans.
“Clearly, my speech said that these are the complaints in Sabah and Sarawak, and that if we want to save Malaysia, we have to implement the Malaysia Agreement 1963 terms.
“I only voiced the sentiments on the ground. We don’t want to separate from Malaysia,” he said.