The undignified silence of the Dewan Rakyat

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When the embattled Mahiaddin Yasin admitted publicly he had lost the confidence of lawmakers, the actions of a few high-powered Dewan Rakyat officials triggered curiosity in the run-up to the televised announcement.

A few days before the Mahiaddin admission, Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said took to Twitter to enquire with her counterpart Rashid Hasnon, after he alleged he was not aware of a letter sent to them by the palace.

Perhaps tweeting is the right and fastest way for Azalina to alert Rashid, who seemed to be at sea in matters of such urgency.

The letter, dated 9 August, sent to Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun and copied to both deputy speakers, reportedly came from comptroller of the royal household, Ahmad Fadhli Shamsuddin, who asked Azhar to confirm the number of MPs supporting Mahiaddin.

The letter was to be answered by August 10.

Given that the letter came from the palace and Rashid had had an audience recently with the Agong, along with Azalina and Azhar, regarding the country’s political crisis, you would have thought that Rashid would immediately seek the letter as soon as possible to get to the bottom of the matter.

Surely, at this juncture there was no time to quibble yet again over what constituted “as soon as possible”.

Instead, Rashid found time to express surprise that the Agong had made an enquiry directly to the Speaker and not the prime minister, which Rashid insisted was the normal practice.

You would surmise that the palace approached the Dewan Rakyat Speaker directly, presumably because the latter would know better about the status of voting support.

Besides, a Speaker worth his or her salt and who represents the legislature would jealously guard its interests.

Also, by doing so, the spirit of separation of powers in the government would be ensured so that checks and balances can occur between its three branches: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

This arrangement supposedly helps to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility of the institutions.

Incidentally, the said letter – presumably saved on PDF and sent by email – from the palace had apparently made its rounds on social media.

What is significant is that the palace had insisted on knowing whether Mahiaddin still commanded the confidence of the majority of the lawmakers.

That is why the palace’s letter wanted Azhar to respond swiftly, because it concerned the legitimacy of the government of the day and time was of the essence.

In the midst of all this, Azhar reportedly denied having sent a letter to the palace to inform the Agong that Mahiaddin only had 100 MPs supporting him.

It now makes people wonder whether the letter was really fake, as Azhar later insisted.

Azhar also vehemently denied he had sent a letter to Mahiaddin informing the prime minister he had lost his majority.

Be that as it may, in what looked like a press statement, which was dated 11 August, purportedly written by Azhar and sighted on social media, Azhar insisted that Mahiaddin had 114 MPs behind him and hence, he added, the question of him losing the majority did not arise.

It needs to be said here that we are in an era where supposedly confidential and open letters are likely to transform into public knowledge made possible by advanced information and communications technology.

There are many letters floating around, the authenticity of which is at times difficult to determine.

Such a political situation caused anxiety to some people because they do not know where the country is heading amid the pandemic and the dwindling economy.

As many concerned Malaysians had hoped, a vote of confidence should have been held in the august chamber at the earliest opportunity available after Perikatan Nasional took power, to serve the collective interest of all Malaysians. Yet it unfortunately did not happen.

The recent televised admission of Mahiaddin’s failure to garner a majority vote might have been expected all along by many people, but it only emerged after parliamentary democracy and civil liberties were compromised, and the pandemic was improperly managed to the effect that many lives and livelihoods were lost. – The Malaysian Insight

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