KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — Opposition federal lawmakers today faulted Dewan Rakyat Speaker and his deputies for making them appear “incompetent” at a press conference held to give Perikatan Nasional members of parliament the platform to defend themselves against public criticism of their performance.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin also appeared to suggest the “low quality” label given to his colleagues had likely stemmed from detractors' poor grasp of how the Dewan Rakyat works.

Hamzah alleged the quality of debate in the current sitting up to now is poor because Opposition MPs are prevented from effectively scrutinising Cabinet members, especially during Ministerial Question Time and the dedicated session for questions to be directed to the prime minister.

“I think the sitting procedures must first be understood.

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“We noticed on social media people have questioned us and suggest we haven’t done enough to rebut explanations by ministers or the prime minister (effectively).

“We’re not trying to be defensive but the reports that paint us as being ‘schooled’ aren’t the case,” the Larut MP added.

Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, PN whip in the lower house, placed the blame mostly on Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul whom he accused of “sheltering” ministers from being grilled by Opposition MPs.

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He claimed PN lawmakers are usually blocked from asking supplementary questions.

Johari had been PKR’s MP for Sungai Petani from 2008 until last year.

“If you look at the rules, the Speaker can allow MPs to ask up to three supplementary questions but usually only two are allowed,” the Kota Baru MP said.

“Because of this, we can’t get a better explanation, ask tougher questions. When only two are allowed, one we ask and the other will usually be opened to theirs (government backbenchers).”

How this practice differed from previous sittings under the government that both Hamzah and Takiyuddin were a part of, they did not explain.

During the two-year PN rule, the Lower House Speakers were known to have allowed MPs only two supplementary questions, although occasionally they did allow up to three additional questions.

Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun, the Dewan Rakyat Speaker appointed by PN, also faced allegations that he stifled Pakatan Harapan lawmakers when they were the Opposition.

He has maintained that he was impartial and had only carried out his duties as provided by the law.

When asked if Hamzah thought Azhar was a better Speaker given the criticism he made towards Johari are similar to that made against the former, Hamzah suggested the answer was obvious.

“He was not a politician,” he replied.

* A previous version of the report contained an error regarding Tan Sri Johari Abdul’s positions. The error has since been corrected.