By P Ramakrishnan
Ramakrishnan stresses that the Speaker must not be seen as standing in the way of democracy and obstructing the democratic process.
There are 27 motions waiting to decide the fate of the backdoor government. They are demanding to know the status of the present government. Both the Opposition (25 motions) as well as the government MPs (2) are seemingly anxious to know if Prime Minister Muhyiddin enjoys the confidence of parliament. This issue deserves to be settled first so that the items on the order paper can proceed as intended after that.
It is crucial that the legitimacy of the government be established first before government bills are tabled for debate. At this juncture, we don’t know the standing of Muhyiddin and his cabinet. Many think and believe that he doesn’t have the majority support to carry on the functions of a legitimate government.
An illegitimate government doesn’t have the right to govern the country or decide policies for the nation. As long as this majority support is in doubt, and in the absence of any attempt by Muhyiddin to remove this doubt by submitting himself to a vote of confidence, the Perikatan Nasional cannot claim to be the lawful government. The majority support must be put to test so that there is a basis for Muhyiddin to act in his capacity as Prime Minister.
Let it be understood that without the sanction of parliament confirming that Muhyiddin indeed has the authority to carry on the functions of a legitimate government, he has no right to be the head of the PN government. This dubious government has no right to table government bills for debate. In the event it turns out that Muhiddin does not have the majority support in parliament, it will be a wasted time and effort debating the government bills first without settling his legitimacy.
If this simple logic does not persuade the Speaker to put these motions of confidence to vote at the start of parliament sitting on 2 November 2020, he will not be viewed as a neutral person acting in the best interest of democracy. When both the Opposition and the ruling MPs earnestly seek to settle this issue of confidence, the Speaker should not be a stumbling block. He cannot simply ignore the fact that these 27 motions represent more than 12% of the 222 MPs in parliament. This is a big number that cannot be dismissed – he must take cognizance of the percentage of MPs demanding for a vote.
If the Speaker is adamant that the government business must take precedence – no doubt that would be his stand – then the only thing left to all those who moved the motion of confidence – or no confidence – is to defeat the Budget 2021. In one stroke two objectives can be achieved: the Speaker who doesn’t understand the democratic process and the false government will be kicked out.
If the Speaker is prudent enough to allow the motion of confidence to be decided on the first day, nothing is lost. The new government will table its own Budget 2021. Normally, the opposition will have ready its alternative budget to present. When the Opposition becomes the new government following the defeat of PN’s Budget 2021, their alternative budget will become Budget 2021. In essence, there will be a budget ready to be debated. There is nothing to worry.
If the Speaker is obstinate in sticking to his interpretation of the Standing Orders and disallows the debate on the motion of confidence, it would be a waste of precious time and effort when finally the Budget 2021 is inevitably defeated. At that point there will be no budget and there will be no government.
The Standing Orders are meant to regulate parliamentary proceedings. They are not cast in stone. They don’t have the authority of the constitution.
The Speaker must not be seen as standing in the way of democracy and obstructing the democratic process.
All MPs who are concerned that we must not be governed by an illegitimate government should heed Thomas Paine’s statement, “The duty of a true patriot is to protect his country from its government.”
Will our MPs live up to the dictates of their conscience? Or will it be politics as usual without principles and morality?
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)