Azalina moots unity cabinet, convening Parliament

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Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said has proposed that Putrajaya enact an ordinance to allow Parliament to reconvene without any motions of confidence to be heard.

She also proposed that an interim emergency government with an emergency cabinet formed with representation from all political parties.

Azalina said this would minimise any unnecessary drama in Parliament.

She also proposed that an election should not be held until the pandemic is under control and at least 50 percent of the target group is vaccinated.

“Until and unless the pandemic is controlled and the herd immunity reaches 50%, no general election should be held but instead an interim emergency government with an emergency cabinet be formed, with all representation of all political parties,” she said.

She then urged Putrajaya to invest in preparing for a virtual parliament and speech-to-text system.

She also said Parliament was wide enough to ensure social distancing.

“The Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara are large enough to ensure social distancing. Do not worry about Standing Orders and constitutional parliamentary procedures as we are in an emergency,” said Azalina.

Among the other standard operating procedure, she said the government can use was the Special Select Committee as an alternative tool to establish a transparent inquisitorial process and promote executive accountability.

Azalina said this in an open letter on her Facebook page today, which she said was written out of “utter frustration” with the lack of response from the attorney-general and law minister to her previous questions.

She is the Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker but signed off in the letter as the MP for Pengerang, where she is currently representing for the fourth term.

We can’t afford to be under emergency forever, she said.

“It would seem that the suspension of Parliament has not only crippled democracy, but it has also crippled the capacity of government officials of basic courtesy to respond to valid concerns raised by MPs beyond the walls of Parliament.

“I see no other way for Malaysia to move forward in this state of emergency but for Parliament to reconvene,” she said.

Azalina said Parliament can be convened if all Parliament staffers are vaccinated.

“I was informed that as of now, Parliament staffers are not considered as frontliners. I don’t agree with this. As guardians of both Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, which uphold democracy, they are frontliners in my opinion,” said Azalina, who is a former law minister.

Should in-person meetings still be considered dangerous, Azalina said meetings can be held online.

“It is not costly. Even Zoom provides polling options to facilitate voting processes. And I’d be happy to use the mute function to stop errant parliamentarians who talk too much,” she said.

Parliament last convened during the November-December 2020 session. All legislatures have been suspended since Jan 11 due to the proclamation of emergency, which is set to expire on Aug 1.

However, an end to the emergency is now in doubt given due to the slow rollout of the vaccination programme and ever-rising number of new Covid-19 cases, intensive care bed use and deaths.

“The government can lock down its people, but the government must not lock down the process of democracy.

“We have already suffered enough trade-offs by compromising basic democratic and individual rights for the sake of the public health crisis.

“We are at war with a virus that knows no borders and a key strategy to right any war is getting public trust. By denying the rights of MPs to engage with the government in a meaningful manner, you are denying the rights of the people,” said Azalina.

She also called for the government to re-establish public confidence and trust by demonstrating three critical dimensions — performance, professionalism and patriotism.

“When citizens are disconnected and angry, do not expect gratitude.

“Clear examples are the vaccination hesitancy and low uptake to vaccine registration, which are some of the many indicators that the government has lost the confidence of its people.

“Public mistrust must be handled via public debate which is via Parliament,” she added.

She also suggested for the government to read and understand how other countries published select committee reports on how the Covid-19 pandemic is being dealt with and finding solutions by the people for the people.

Azalina also stressed that the government’s know-all attitude must stop.

“It is unfathomable why Malaysia is unable to progress beyond the Emergency Ordinances.

“Given that Covid-19 is here to stay for years to come, we cannot afford to be in a state of Emergency forever.

“Do we remain the only country in the world that has immobilised Parliament in times of crisis?” she said.

She also hinted that in a chat with Health director-general Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah recently, the latter has no objection to Parliament reconvening virtually.

Under the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, for as long as the State of Emergency is in force the provisions relating to the summoning, proroguing and dissolution of Parliament in the Federal Constitution shall not have effect.

At the same time, the Emergency Ordinance stated that the Parliament shall be summoned, prorogued and dissolved on a date as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong thinks appropriate.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced a state of Emergency which he claimed was to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. This will last until August 1, or until Covid-19 comes under control.

Under the Emergency declaration, Parliament and state legislative assemblies will not be allowed to meet, until such a time as decided by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The Dewan Rakyat was scheduled to meet for the first time this year from March 8 to April 8.

In February this year, Azalina questioned the reasoning for the suspension of Parliament during the state of emergency.

She said with the suspension, the legislature’s functions have been “emasculated” while the executive has a “free rein” over the country’s affairs as a result.

In a letter addressed to Attorney-General Idrus Harun, she had said she was bewildered at how accommodations to facilitate sittings employed by other countries, such as lowering the quorum of MPs, flexible sitting times and broadcasting of chamber proceedings are not being used.