KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional lawmakers may finally have understood former opposition MPs’ frustrations today, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Commenting on the mass walkout by nearly the entire Opposition bench over the notice given over the appointment of the Dewan Rakyat Speaker, the prime minister also dismissed the action as political theatre.
“That is (just) sandiwara (drama). It’s just play acting,” he told reporters outside the Dewan Rakyat after noting that this was the first time that many, including Najib, were seated in the Opposition bench.
“For the first time, the ex-prime minister walked out, so now he knows what it means when people walked out before,” Dr Mahathir said.
BN and PAS MPs abandoned the Dewan Rakyat just as Dr Mahathir was nominating Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to be Speaker, ostensibly over a purported failure to observe a 14-day notice period required for such appointments.
They claimed they were not against Ariff’s selection per se, but rather the government’s alleged non-fulfilment of the stipulation under the Standing Orders for it to provide 14 days’ notice.
When asked why the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government did not adhere to its own manifesto for the Speaker to be appointed from among MPs, Dr Mahathir said the public should not treat the election pledges as immutable.
Political parties often needed to be practical in their decisions, he explained.
“For certain reasons we cannot adhere to the actual manifesto. Please remember the manifesto isn’t a bible, it is a guidance.
“Sometimes we can do things, sometimes we find that we can’t so we have to be very practical minded,” he said.
The prime minister also expressed belief that the public would be receptive to a non-partisan choice to be Speaker.
Responding to allegations over the date of Ariff’s nomination to be Speaker, he insisted that it was done on July 2 as needed to observe the stipulated notice period.
Confusion arose after Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s remarks suggested that the nomination was only done on July 9 or short of the 14 days’ notice.
“It’s not backdated, it was prepared earlier so when I signed, I put the date,” Dr Mahathir said.
Opposition MPs led by PAS tried repeatedly to cite the Standing Orders to disrupt Ariff’s appointment, before walking out in protest.
The group returned later after Ariff was appointed, to complete their own swearing-in ceremony.