New KL Parliament's first sitting starts with a brief walkout

New Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (first row, fifth from left) posing for a photo with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, other Cabinet ministers and MPs at the swearing-in of the new Parliament.
New Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (first row, fifth from left) posing for a photo with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, other Cabinet ministers and MPs at the swearing-in of the new Parliament. Opposition MPs staged a brief walkout at the start of the first sitting but returned to the chamber to take their oaths. PHOTO: BERNAMA
New Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (first row, fifth from left) posing for a photo with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, other Cabinet ministers and MPs at the swearing-in of the new Parliament.
Umno MP Khairy Jamaluddin was among the opposition MPs who refused to join his party members in the walkout despite being urged to do so. He told reporters he did not agree with this form of protest.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Opposition MPs, including Najib, stage protest as Speaker is sworn in

Malaysia's MPs were sworn in yesterday, but Parliament's first sitting since the May 9 general election saw opposition members stage a brief protest walkout as retired judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof was being sworn in as Speaker.

Opposition MPs jeered and said the new 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 Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, an Umno lawmaker and former deputy prime minister who is now opposition chief. He led the walkout, accompanied by MPs from his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

Former prime minister Najib Razak, who joined the walkout, said: "As opposition, we want to stress the principle of adhering to the rules."

They returned to take their oaths.

It was the first time the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance was sitting on the government bench.

The historic sitting also saw Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad returning to Parliament as Prime Minister.

Dr Mahathir described the mass walkout as "sandiwara" (drama).

"They were acting. For the first time, the ex-prime minister walks out, so now he knows how it is like when people walk out of the hall," he told reporters later.

Not all opposition MPs walked out. Umno MPs Khairy Jamaluddin and Anifah Aman, both former ministers, stayed put, refusing to join their party members in the walkout despite being urged to do so.

"I am of the opinion that this isn't how we state our protests... We should respect the House," Mr Khairy told reporters.

Datuk Seri Anifah said he saw no need to leave the chamber.

Ninety of the 221 MPs who took their oaths were first-time MPs - the highest number since Parliament first convened in 1959. It includes a college student who will be the Lower House's youngest MP.

Only Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was not present. He was on medical leave after undergoing surgery to remove a tumour in his pancreas.

BN has been reduced to three parties from 13, with only 51 MPs. It still forms the largest opposition bloc, with PAS holding 18 seats. BN's former allies in Sarawak have 19 seats, while several Umno MPs have left to be independents.

Najib, who faces graft charges over misappropriation of public funds during his tenure in office, was sworn in as an opposition MP for the first time.

 
 

Lawmakers Nga Kor Ming and Mohd Rashid Hasnon, both PH MPs, were elected Deputy Speakers.

The Parliament sitting will be held for 20 days until Aug 16.

Today, the King, Sultan Muhammad V, will officially open the session. Following the King's speech, which traditionally sets out the government's agenda, MPs are slated to debate it till the end of the month.

According to the parliamentary schedule, Bills are slated to be tabled in the first week of next month.

The Straits Times understands that the only key legislation ready is the repeal of the goods and services tax, which was zero-rated, or effectively scrapped, from June 1, in keeping with PH's election manifesto.

The sales and services tax is also set to be reintroduced.

PH has promised to repeal or amend various laws such as the Anti-Fake News Act, but this is set to take time as ministries have yet to complete reviewinglegislation deemed draconian.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'New KL Parliament's first sitting starts with a brief walkout'. Print Edition | Subscribe