Azalina questions rationale for not allowing Parliament committees to meet

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Urges AG to suspend duties of the current Cabinet and replace it with the appointment of a Special Emergency Cabinet throughout the Emergency period.

Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has questioned the rationale for not allowing Parliament committees, including the Special Select Committees, to conduct their activities as it prevents lawmakers from looking into issues affecting Malaysians.

The Pengerang MP has also suggested to Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to consider advising the suspension of duties of the current Cabinet and replace it with the appointment of a Special Emergency Cabinet which consists of relevant ministers only throughout the Emergency period.

In a letter dated Feb 17 addressed to Idrus, which was also posted on her Twitter account, Azalina said she was “bewildered” as to how and why the government is unable to employ means to facilitate Parliament sittings like other nations, such as by reducing the quorum of MPs present, fixing flexible sitting hours and broadcasting chamber proceedings.

“Instead of improvising so parliamentary proceedıngs can take place, the government has opted to suspend parliamentary sittings altogether.

“If that was not enough, the Attorney General’s Chambers has now advised the government, rather restrictively I may add, that all activities of committees established in Parliament, including Special Select Committees (SCs), can no longer continue even if conducted virtually,” she said in the letter.

The letter was also copied to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, among others.

She said with SCs unable to continue, it prevents MPs who are members of the SCs from investigating and scrutinising issues affecting Malaysians and publishing their findings and recommendations.

“In this regard, with the Legislature’s functions emasculated and the SCs activities terminated, the Executive seems to appear to have a free rein over the affairs of the country whilst the state of Emergency is in force.

“What is even more worrying for Malaysia’s Parliamentary democracy is that any Emergency proclaimed, or any ordinance promulgated under Article 150 ‘shall not be challenged or called in question in any ground’,” Azalina said.

Azalina, who has been an MP for 17 years, said the situation raised several questions, including how the executive will be held accountable for its decisions and whether the country is excusing ministerial responsibility because of a health crisis.

On her suggestion of a Special Emergency Cabinet with reduced powers and comprising relevant ministries, Azalina said: “Concurrently, a bipartisan Special Parliamentary Committee comprising government and Opposition MPs can be chaired by the Yang Di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat to, among others, enforce ministerial responsibility and provide the necessary checks and balances.”

Meanwhile, DAP’s Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin called for the next Parliament session to be held in May.

“I cautiously welcome the announcement by the prime minister yesterday that all elected representatives regardless of political (party) will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine under Phase 1 of Malaysia’s National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

“Upon completion of Phase 1 of the said immunisation programme, there is no longer any reason to withhold or suspend parliamentary sittings.

Bernama

“Phase 1 will run from February 26 until April. In the circumstances, Parliament should reconvene in May, immediately after the end of Phase 1,” he said.

Chan said the elected representatives by then would be able to safely carry out their duties without the need to worry about getting infected by Covid-19 or unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.

He said the people are getting angry that 222 MPs are still drawing their monthly salaries despite not having to attend any Parliament sessions.

To allay any concerns, he said all parliamentary officers and assistants to elected representatives who will attend the Parliament sessions should also be given the vaccine.

Parliament was suspended during the nationwide emergency announced on Jan 12.

In justifying the state of emergency, Muhyiddin said it was necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19 but critics accused him of using the proclamation to cling on to power after losing his majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

The emergency took effect on Jan 11 and will last until Aug 1. During this time, Muhyiddin’s government can govern by decree.

 

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