KUALA LUMPUR - A Member of Parliament (MP) from the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition on Wednesday (July 18) became the first lawmaker to be booted out of Malaysia's new Parliament after he refused to retract a remark describing a group of Umno Youth members as "gangsters".
Mr Ramkarpal Singh, an MP for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) Bukit Gelugor in Penang, was ejected by Speaker Mohd Ariff Md Yusof, just a day after the first session of the country's 14th Parliament was officially opened by Malaysia's King Sultan Muhammad V.
The DAP is one of the four parties making up the PH coalition.
Datuk Mohamad Ariff and lawmakers for the 222-member lower house of Parliament were sworn in on Monday in a historic sitting that saw PH MPs taking the government bench for the first time since the landmark May 9 election victory that ousted the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
The fracas over Mr Ramkarpal's remark on Wednesday began after he cited an incident on Feb 26, 2009 in which his late father, DAP stalwart Karpal Singh, was mobbed by a group of Umno Youth members, the Malaysiakini news website reported.
The group had reportedly confronted Mr Karpal, who was wheelchair-bound, outside the Parliament tower block to demand that he retracted his use of the word "celaka" (damned) in reference to Umno Youth that he made in a debate speech a day earlier, according to The Star.
Mr Ramkarpal's "gangster" remark was met with protests by some opposition BN MPs, including the BN MP for Kinabatangan in Sabah, Datuk Bung Moktar Radin, who then made a similar accusation against PH lawmakers.
Mr Ariff, who viewed the remarks made by both lawmakers as unparliamentary, then called on both MPs to retract them or risk facing Section 44(2) of the Standing Order, which would ban them from Parliament for two days.
"This is just a trivial matter. Don't use inappropriate words in the House, can we be more mature," he was quoted saying by Malaysiakini.
Mr Ramkarpal stood up and apologised to the House but said he was unable to retract the statement, The Star reported.
"I stand to my statement that the Umno Youth members who attacked the late Karpal Singh are gangsters. I cannot accept it and I will not retract my words," he said.
He told reporters at the lobby afterwards that he had refused to retract his statement as a matter of principle.
"If a ruling has been made and if an MP is unhappy with the ruling, they can file a motion under Standing Order 99 against the Speaker's decision," he said.
He added that he was disappointed with the Speaker for making a ruling on top of another ruling.
The appointment of retired judge Mohamad Ariff as Speaker on Monday, had led opposition lawmakers from the BN and the Parti Islam SeMalaysia to stage a brief walkout in protest over the move.
The opposition MPs had said they staged the walkout because the PH government had appointed a Speaker without giving the 14 days of notice required.
"We are not objecting to the choice of Speaker but the process by which he was named as candidate," said opposition chief and Umno lawmaker Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who led the walkout.