Lawyers for Liberty

Press Statement

 

19 June 2014

 

MP N.Surendran’s six months’ suspension places the Speaker on a pedestal beyond reproach

 

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

The motion, put forward by the Prime Minister’s Department alleged that Surendran at a press conference had among others accused the Speaker of being ‘authoritarian’ for not allowing the Opposition to speak and that Parliament should build a ‘giant rubber stamp’ and therefore his behaviour was an insult to the Speaker and further tarnished 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 they voice their dissent at the risk of serious repercussion and Barisan Nasional (BN) can and will abuse their majority votes on a whim.

 

This suspension came quickly after Surendran had just ended his six months’ suspension from Parliament which took place in November 2013. He was also ejected on two occasions for daring to bring up public interest issues concerning a death in police custody and the destruction of a 100-year-old Hindu temple, in defiance of the Speaker.

It is deeply disturbing that the Speaker has place himself on a pedestal beyond reproach and any criticism of his erratic and biased decision is now being equated to insulting the Speaker and by extension, the Parliament.

 

The fact that the Speaker is biased and applies a double standard in favour of BN is beyond dispute as it is plain and obvious for all to see. The Opposition rarely has a voice in Parliament and their motions have never been debated. See for example, the recent rejection of two petitions brought by the public and presented by the Opposition on Lynas Advance Materials Plant and Felda/ Malaysian Palm Oil Berhad.

The injustice against Surendran is further compounded by the Deputy Speaker’s swift and adamant behaviour that clearly showed bad faith or premeditation when he bulldozed through the suspension motion that was riddled with serious errors, without a debate and despite Opposition parliamentarians’ strenuous objections.

 

First, under Rule 27(3) of the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat, the Deputy 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 2 pm on 18 June 2014 and tabled the next day at 11.30 am, in less than 24 hours.

Secondly, the Deputy Speaker did not define how the motion was a matter of ‘public interest’ for the benefit of Surendran or the other parliamentarians.

 

Thirdly, the use of Rule 27 in this case was clearly erroneous and a serious conflict of interest as the motion was approved to be tabled by the Speaker when the Speaker’s position was itself the subject of the motion.

Finally, instead of having Surendran’s fate summarily decided by BN parliamentarians in connivance with the Deputy Speaker, he should have been brought before a far more impartial avenue, the Committee of Privileges under Rule 80.

 

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, we call upon Parliament 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 has lost its lustre, respect and public confidence.

 

Released by:

Eric Paulsen

 

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

19 June 2014

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