KUALA LUMPUR – Former Information, Communications and Culture Minister Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim was today elected the new president of the Dewan Negara, the Upper House of Parliament.
He replaces Tan Sri S. A. Vigneswaran whose term of office ended on June 22.
Rais, 78, was elected the 18th Dewan Negara president through a secret ballot.
He was among the three candidates proposed for the post, namely Senator Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff and Senator Theodore Douglas Lind.
However, Theodore withdrew at the last minute.
Rais obtained 45 votes whereas Mohd Yusmadi secured 19 votes.
The result was announced by Dewan Negara deputy president Senator Datuk Seri Abdul Halim Abd Samad.
Earlier, the motion to elect Rais was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan representing Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in accordance with Rule of Meeting 4(1), the Standing Order of the Dewan Rakyat.
The motion was seconded by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Shabudin Yahya while Mohd Yusmadi was proposed for the post by Senator Dr Ahmad Azam Hamzah.
There was a minor commotion when Rais’s candidature was questioned by Senator Nga Hock Cheh who claimed that it was against the Standing Orders of the Senate as Muhyiddin was not a Dewan Negara member.
“Muhyiddin is not a member of the Dewan Negara so he does not have the right to propose Tan Sri Rais Yatim as a candidate for this post. As such, the motion should be rejected,” he said.
However, it was rejected by Abdul Halim who said that Muhyiddin has the right to do so.
“I listen attentively and understand, although the prime minister is not a member of the Dewan Negara, he is the Head of the Council who determines the dates in which the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat will sit.
“It is not stated in any Rule of Meeting that only Members of the Senate can propose another member as a candidate for the Dewan Negara president post,” he added.
Abdul Halim then ruled that a vote by secret ballot be held as more than one candidature has been submitted, in accordance with Rule of Meeting 2 (3).
Meanwhile, in a press conference, Rais said he wanted the Parliamentary Service Act 1963 to be looked into for Parliament to be a strong entity without interference from other jurisdictions – the Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary.
He also reminded the members of the august House not to play personal politics when the Senate convenes instead, prioritise matters related to the people and the development of the country.
Commenting on an issue raised by a senator who asked him to quit Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Rais replied that there was no reason for him to do so.
“There is no reason for me to resign… even my position in the party is mainly as an adviser. Former president Tan Sri S. A. Vigneswaran who is the MIC president also did not resign, so the matter is not relevant to me,” he said.
In the meantime, he also thanked the UMNO leadership who also supported him for Senate president.
“Although they also had a candidate from their own party, but at the last minute they seem to have confidence in me and supported me,” he said.