FIVE civil society groups have condemned the treatment of three female Opposition MPs by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Harun during the special sitting of the House yesterday (July 28).
The altercation occurred when three female MPs – Hannah Yeoh, Kasthuri Patto and Teo Nie Ching – led the push to convince the Speaker to invite the Government to extend the sitting hours.
“This is so that the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin could continue his response to the many important questions raised by MPs from both sides of the aisle regarding the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP),” the civil society groups said in a joint statement.
“Yesterday, the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat refused to even acknowledge that the request by the female MPs was not for him to extend the sitting hours, but for him to invite the Government bench to do so.
Instead he responded repeatedly to these female MPs to ‘Tolong diam boleh tak?’ (Can you please be quiet) and ‘Tolong diam sekejap,’ (Please be quiet) followed by repeatedly turning off the microphones.
According to the statement, both Azhar’s language and tone were not only inappropriate but also gave a clear impression of chauvinistic or gender-based discriminatory behaviour.
According to the civil society groups, all MPs must bear in mind that under Article 57 (1A)(b) of the Federal Constitution, the Speaker is considered a member of the House by virtue of his office (save for certain purposes which are not applicable here).
“Therefore, it is entirely within their rights as Members of the House to subject the Speaker to the same rules of conduct and ethics to which any other MP is subjected to,” they said.
On that basis, the MPs may bring a motion against the Speaker to cite him for breaching the rules of the House under Standing Order 36(4), ask him to withdraw and apologise for his comments as well as having those comments struck from the record of the House.
“Gender-based discrimination is present and it is endemic. It is our collective moral obligation to call it out when it happens, support those targeted and push for consequences, whether it happens in schools, workplace or the halls of Parliament,” they opined.
This statement is undersigned by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), ENGAGE, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Bait Al-Amanah and Persatuan Pengundi Muda (UNDI18). – July 29, 2021