KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's first parliament sitting since the May 9 general election was marred by a mass walkout by opposition MPs, who were protesting against the appointment of the Speaker of parliament.
Former Court of Appeal judge Mohamad Ariff Yusof took his oath of office as the ninth Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, or parliament, on Monday (Jul 16).
The 69-year-old was the only candidate for the position.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad proposed the nomination of Mohamad Ariff as soon as the Dewan Rakyat sitting began at 10am.
But as the secretary of parliament read out the proclamation for his nomination and appointment, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) MP for Kota Bharu Takiyuddin Hassan questioned the legitimacy of Mohamad Ariff's nomination.
He cited parliament rules that state that the secretary needs to be informed in writing of the proposed choice of speaker 14 days in advance of the meeting and claimed this was not done.
"Although the Dewan Rakyat secretary had informed that the Leader of the House, the Prime Minister, had sent the letter to the Dewan Rakyat secretary on Jul 2, we have adequate proof that the 14-day notice as stipulated in the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders was not followed," he later told reporters.
The situation became a little chaotic when more opposition MPs objected to the proclamation, but the process of electing the Speaker continued.
Opposition MPs jeered as he was sworn in, The Star said.
Opposition Barisan Nasional and PAS MPs then expressed criticism and walked out of the House in protest.
Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and Kimanis MP Anifah Aman did not participate in the walkout, The Star reported.
Dr Mahathir called the opposition protest of the Speaker's appointment "play-acting".
Ketereh MP Annuar Musa of Barisan Nasional said the opposition did not boycott parliament but did not wish to be a part of the process which "did not adhere to procedure".
“We had an option, to just sit (in the House) when something wrong was taking place or leave,” he said, adding that they did not agree with the government ignoring the law.
“Parliament is a place where we have to follow protocol, it is not a circus or platform to take revenge,” he said.
The Malay Mail reported that the MPs later returned to take their oaths of office.
All but one of the 221 members of the Dewan Rakyat were expected to be sworn-in at the first meeting of the first term of the 14th parliament session.
Pagoh MP and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was on medical leave after undergoing surgery to remove a tumour in the pancreas.
Former prime minister Najib Razak also took up his parliamentary seat despite his coalition's defeat, and facing criminal charges.
A lawmaker is only disqualified if convicted and sentenced to more than a year in jail or fined more than RM2,000.
BN and PAS also agreed that UMNO party chief Ahmad Zahid will be the opposition leader in the House.