KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's lawmakers can now raise questions on troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in Parliament, after the new Speaker of the House Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof on Thursday (Aug 2) lifted a ban on such discussions that was imposed two years ago.
However, Datuk Mohamad Ariff also ruled that MPs were not allowed to discuss the merits of the ongoing criminal case against former prime minister Najib Razak, which is the subject of a gag order issued by the High Court on July 4.
Najib, who is MP for Pekan, has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges regarding RM42 million (S$14 million) allegedly transferred into his accounts from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary. The interim gag order obtained by his legal team runs until Aug 8, when the case next comes up in court.
"The interim gag order obtained by the defence lawyer of Pekan MP that restricts the case from being discussed in the Dewan Rakyat stays, as it involves criminal charges. It will not be allowed to be debated or mentioned in the Dewan Rakyat as stated in the interim gag order," said Datuk Mohamad Ariff.
He said that the ruling was made to respect the High Court's decision and the separation of powers.
However, he also noted that the principle of sub judice should not curtail the freedom and rights of lawmakers to raise matters that are not related to the criminal charges surrounding the case.
The Speaker made the ruling after the Barisan Nasional representative for Kuala Krau Ismail Mohamed Said sought his advice on the blanket ban issued by former Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia.
Tan Sri Pandikar Amin ruled in 2016 that Parliament should not discuss the civil suits filed by the United States Department of Justice that claimed, among other things, that then Prime Minister Najib had received RM2.6 billion in his accounts from 1MDB.
Najib has denied the allegations and said the funds were a donation from the Saudi royal family. He was in 2016 cleared of any wrongdoing by the Malaysian authorities.