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Choose New Speaker on Merits Not Necessarily from Umno

Kota Kinabalu     “The Sabah Speaker plays a very important role under the Westminster system of government.  Its sudden vacancy offers an opportunity for the State Legislative Assembly to appoint the new Speaker based on merits and certain required criteria” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, commenting on the availability of the post due to the not unexpected appointed of the previous Speaker as a federal Minister in the Cabinet reshuffle.

Whether Datuk Seri Salleh has done a good job as Speaker and head of the Legislature in the Westminster system, it will be judged by the people and history.   Regardless, he should be commended for holding his fort with his two Deputies at the time of many opposition lawmakers in the Assembly.

In choosing the next Speaker, UMNO should not appoint any Tom, Dick and Harry, or Ali, Mohd. and Rahim, so to speak just to fill the position with someone who is going to be obedient and subservient to the Government of the day.   The other BN components should also ensure that this does not happen and agree blindly and obligingly.

Preferably, the Speaker should be conversant in Bahasa Malaysia and English.   And knowledge of the law would be an advantage given the intricacies of the position as head of the Legislature which passes laws in Sabah.

Perhaps, a good alternative would be to promote one of the two current Deputies as their experience would put them in good stead.   Although neither are from Umno, it should not matter as Umno cannot be dominating everything including the Speaker’s post.

The Speaker should also ensure that true separation of powers is practiced in the Legislative Assembly and ensure that the Legislative Assembly acts as a check and balance to the Executive and Judiciary branches as promoted in the Westminster system.   At the Assembly, the Speaker is the head and the Chief Minister, as Head of the Executive, is only an ordinary member like the other 59 Assembly representatives.

The Speaker can take the cue from the Federal Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin, who is incidentally also from Sabah, who has set out to introduce reforms to the Federal Parliament and ensure a proper separation of powers between the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.

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