Asfia has overstayed his role as a Speaker — Chong

Chong Chieng Jen

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Feb 22: Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen has appealed to State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar to stop ‘lording’ over members of the DUN as there should be more liberal, open debates.

“The whole DUN institution should be reformed. He (Asfia) has been there for 19 years, and I think he should relinquish the position already. He has overstayed his effective role as a Speaker,” he told reporters today.

The way Sarawak DUN operated, he said, had been rendered a ‘rubber stamp’ of the state government, which defeated the whole purpose of the legislature.

“The person that ought to be referred to the Privileges Committee is the Speaker himself because he has allowed the DUN to be made a rubber stamp of the government.”

Chong, who is also Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, was met after launching the newly established New Car Assessment Programme for Southeast Asian Countries (Asean NCAP) Labelling Compliance Guideline at Perodua Sales Sdn Bhd, Hui Sing, here.

He was commenting on Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei’s case, where he was recently referred to the Committee of Privileges of DUN Sarawak for allegedly breaching parliamentary privileges.

Wong was referred to the Committee for his “offensive, acrimonious and vitriolic remarks” made in the Dewan on Nov 12, 2018, against the Dewan, the Executive and Speaker; thereby, abusing his privilege as a member, according to Deputy Speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala.

Chong pointed out that the proceeding was already wrong because the Speaker, being named the chairman of the Privileges Committee, should not have been the complainant, and by doing so, it had gone against the Rule of Natural Justice and against the Standing Order of the DUN.

“As I was made to understand from Wong, when the Privileges Committee sat, the chairman, who is supposed to be Speaker, was not there. He did not chair since he was the complainant.

“But the whole underlying principles of the Standing Order, in stating that he is the chairman of the Privileges Committee, is not for the Speaker to refer anyone to the committee.”

The Speaker, he opined, does not speak as the Speaker was supposed to be an impartial person and not supposed to initiate any motion to refer someone to the Privileges Committee.

“If there is anything to be done, it should be the ministers, and he (Speaker) will chair. He should not be the complainant. So, because of this, there was a serious breach of natural justice and a serious contravention of the Standing Order.

“I think it is very unbecoming for the Speaker of the House to refer Wong to the Privileges Committee as what Wong had said was just a general comment and that our DUN has to be reformed so as to enhance the role of DUN to play its role to watch over the executives.”

With three arms of government — executive, legislature and judiciary in the state and parliamentary levels, Chong highlighted that one of the roles of the legislature was not only to pass legislation but also supervise or be a watchdog against the executives.

“That’s why after the change of government at the federal level, we have formed a lot of parliamentary select committee whereby the select committee will consist of members of both sides of the House.

“They are tasked to oversee the running of important ministries like Ministry of Education (MoE) and the latest one was a select committee on appointment of important positions to GLCs (Government-linked Companies).

“When you want to appoint someone to hold important positions in GLCs, the government agencies have to go through not only the JPA (Public Services Department) but also the select committee, which consists of members of the opposition and the government.”

Chong stressed that Wong was only advocating for the same reform to be instituted in the Sarawak DUN to basically play check and balance on the executive power.

“This is a very fair comment and suggestion, and I see no reason why any fair-minded Speaker would refer a member of the assembly to the Privileges Committee.”

To a question, Chong said he did not see the possibility or ‘miracle’ that the suspension order would not be made against Wong, considering the way Sarawak DUN operates.

“We are looking into the possibility of referring the whole procedure to court by way of judiciary review.”

Adding on and in jolting Asfia’s memory, Chong reminded that Asfia had made a terrible decision before, and the High Court and Court of Appeal had ruled his decision as unlawful.

“So, it was quite ashamed that the highest lawmaking body in Sarawak was found by the court to have acted against the law, and he was the culprit, and it may happen again.” — DayakDaily