Media statement by DAP ADUN for Kampung Tunku Lau Weng San on 16th April 2017 in Petaling Jaya:
The furore and controversy over the Selangor Town and Country Planning Department’s guidelines on non-Muslim houses of worship building could have ended but there was one prominent issue that I believe is not sufficiently dealt with when some personalities from the NGO sector and opinion leaders openly commented a statement by the Hannah Yeoh that her earlier statement may jeopardise her impartiality as Speaker of the Selangor State Legislative Assembly.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said Hannah Yeoh should have been impartial. Opinion leader and prominent commentator Josh Hong said the opposition often criticised speakers who are BN members for being impartial, and thus must practice the same standards
I quoted a report from Malaysiakini.com that “both Wan Saiful and Hong cited British parliament traditions, in which speakers would have to quit their respective parties in order to be impartial.”
I think it is productive if we can follow some of the latest development from some of the latest examples from Westminster, since Wan Saiful and Hong quoted “British parliament traditions”.
It was not too long ago when Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow openly declared that he ‘strongly opposed’ to the idea of an address to both Houses of Parliament by newly elected USA President Mr Donald Trump before the travel ban, and was ‘even more strongly’ against such an invitation after the travel ban on Muslims.
His statement had drawn flak from certain people who claimed that the speaker of the House of Commons should be neutral. Many right wing and Conservative politicians and MPs disagreed with his remarks and criticised him for “devaluing his great office”. However, many in the Opposition supported his statement.
Although not opening arguing the case for or against Donald Trump’s state visit, Lord Fowler being the Speaker of the House of Lords said that “he spends the last 30 years campaigning against discrimination”.
I believe this is a new precedence set as to the impartiality of a Speaker and could be used as a reference for other Parliaments and Legislative Assemblies following the Westminster’s model.
A Speaker ought to act impartial in any business of the House but that does not mean a Speaker does not and should not have his or her own opinions, especially on constitutional issues affecting fundamental liberties and human rights, when a Speaker may have a constituency to look after and is still an active elected representative of his or her constituency. More so, Hannah Yeoh was merely citing a real fact and commenting on it. Her impartiality as Speaker of the House remained intact and unaffected.
Josh Hong was commenting that a Pakatan Harapan’s Speaker should hold a standard higher than their counterparts from Barisan Nasional. My question is if we hold such unreasonably high standard of impartiality on a Speaker, both would have criticized Hannah Yeoh when she urged women to actively involve themselves in politics to reject any leaders with “perverted mindsets” when she commented on the issue of child marriage. The fact that this is not happening speak for itself that a Speaker is entitled to a certain view and opinion on constitutional and human rights issues.
Lau Weng San
ADUN Kampung Tunku