KUALA LUMPUR The issue of the new seating arrangement of members of Parliament was raised in the Dewan Rakyat sitting today when several opposition lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction with changes in the positions of the seats.
Describing the new seating arrangement as uncomfortable and difficult for them to move around, some of the opposition MPs demanded that Dewan Rakyat speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun provide an explanation on the matter before the debate session began.
“The seating arrangement (for last week) was comfortable, but there were no microphones and computers. Today, we are placed in the public gallery that used to be reserved for visitors…with the cramped space, it will be worse if we fall.
“Is this a way the speaker wants to refrain us from debating? If you want to act fairly, why didn’t you change the seating position for MPs from Perikatan Nasional as well? Why only opposition representatives are sitting in the gallery,” RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) said.
Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) who also raised the same issue claimed that social distancing rules are not observed by MPs from the government.
However, Azhar, in his response, stressed that he had no intention of refraining any MPs from taking part in the debate and the new seating position was only a trial run which would be revised again with the consent of the party whips.
“I have consulted with the party whip and it is not a unilateral decision, considering the COVID-19 situation. If it is not suitable, we will change it again,” he explained.
Earlier, Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon announced the new seating arrangements which involved several MPs to make it more comfortable for them to carry out their responsibilities.
It also saw a change in the seating arrangement for several Barisan Nasional (BN) backbenchers when they are placed in the back row of seats in the main hall.
“The decision is also in line with the Rules of Meeting 35 (2) of the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat,” he said.
In a separate development, Azhar denied that he had instructed the judge presiding the 1MDB trial involving Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (BN-Pekan) to postpone the proceedings to allow the former prime minister to join the debate last Thursday.
“I had only written to the judge, asking him to consider allowing Najib to attend the Parliament sitting. We hold to the doctrine of separation of powers between the court and the executive.
“I did not order the judge. That’s my discretion,” he said when responding to a question raised by Chang Lih Kang (PH-Tanjong Malim) who questioned the need for Azhar to use his position to ask the judge to postpone the proceedings.
Source: BERNAMA News Agency