Press Statement

Member of Parliament N.Surendran’s six months’ suspension is a serious blow to democracy

16 November 2013

Lawyers for Liberty is extremely shocked and outraged at the six months’ suspension motion from Parliament that was passed against Keadilan Member of Parliament N. Surendran yesterday.

The motion, put forward by the Prime Minister’s Department alleged that Surendran had accused the Speaker of being ‘bias’ and had spoken ‘complete and utter lies’ at a press conference and that his behaviour was an insult to the Speaker and would tarnish the prestige and reputation of Parliament.

This harsh and overkill reaction, a serious blow to democracy, sends a dangerous and chilling message to the Opposition – that the Opposition voice their dissent at the risk of serious repercussion and Barisan Nasional (BN) can and will abuse their majority votes if they were to overstep their boundaries.

The six months’ suspension came quickly after Surendran was ejected from Parliament on two occasions for daring to bring up public interest issues in defiance of the Speaker concerning a death in police custody and the destruction of a 100-year-old Hindu temple.

It was deeply disturbing that when the Speaker was questioned for his erratic and bias decisions, he repeatedly stated that a motion must be put forward if one was dissatisfied with his actions, thus placing himself on a pedestal beyond reproach. This is hypocritical as the Speaker has never allowed such opposition motion to be debated.

The fact that the Speaker is bias and applies a double standard in favour of BN is beyond dispute. The injustice against Surendran is further compounded by the Speaker’s swift and adamant behaviour that clearly showed he had an axe to grind or had already made up his mind when he bulldozed through the suspension motion that was riddled with serious errors and despite Opposition parliamentarians’ strenuous objections.

First, the motion failed to state under what provision it was made which should have been fatal and rejected outright by the Speaker (especially for such a serious matter). But the Speaker not only accepted it but went on to explain on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Department that it was done under Rule 27 of the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat.

Secondly, under Rule 27(3), the Speaker must be satisfied upon representation to him by a Minister that public interest requires a motion to be debated as soon as possible and in such an event, one day’s notice shall be sufficient. In this matter, the motion was presented to the House at 6 pm on 13 November 2013 and tabled the next day at 11.30 am, in less than 24 hours. This was deemed legitimate by the Speaker even though in the same morning, he had once again, in an extraordinary display of petty behaviour, ejected Surendran from Parliament on the basis that he has yet to complete his suspension for two days, this time defined as 48 hours even though under Rule 44(2), it is clear that “such period shall be deemed to be two days inclusive of the day of incident.”

Thirdly, the Speaker deemed the motion a matter of ‘public interest’ even though the issue of public interest was neither debated, nor defined for the benefit of Surendran or the other parliamentarians.

Fourthly, the use of Rule 27 in this case is clearly erroneous and a serious conflict of interest as the motion is presented to the Speaker for his deliberation when the Speaker’s position is itself the subject of the motion.

Finally, instead of having Surendran’s fate summarily executed by BN parliamentarians in connivance with the Speaker, he should have been brought before the Committee of Privileges under Rule 80. This would have been a far more impartial avenue especially since the facts surrounding the temple demolition have yet to be ascertained and there is no justification for the Speaker to uncritically accept wholesale Tengku Adnan’s and DBKL’s version over Surendran’s that led to his outburst.

Needless to say, suspending a democratically elected Member of Parliament is an extremely serious matter as it injures the democratic process and deprives a constituency of its representative. It must only be done as a last resort via due process for very serious matters and not for vindictive and petty politics as in the present situation.

For all the above reasons, Lawyers for Liberty calls upon the Dewan Rakyat to immediately revoke the suspension and allow Surendran to resume his parliamentary duties. His continued suspension makes a mockery of our supposedly most august House that is fast losing its lustre, respect and public confidence.

Released by:

Eric Paulsen
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty

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