Azhar clarifies remarks on parliamentary panels meeting during emergency

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Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun has sought to clarify his remarks in January when he said independent and special committees would be allowed to continue meeting despite Parliament sittings being suspended.

Azhar said he had made the statement in January based on the proclamation made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s speech related to the emergency, but he had since read the ordinance and had to abide by it.

He told FMT he had clearly stated in January that he would wait for the full emergency ordinance to be released.

Earlier, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Wong Kah Woh reminded the Speaker about his remarks, after Azhar said all national expenditure in the emergency period would be audited by Parliament and the PAC once the emergency ended.

Azhar said: “When the ordinance came out, I quickly sought legal advice on the application of the words used in the ordinance. And it was advised that the wordings cover even the meetings of select committees.

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“I can’t go against the law.”

Recently, Wong had said the PAC was “paralysed” by the emergency as it had been unable to meet. Azhar denied this, saying all national expenditures would be audited by Parliament and the committee after the emergency.

But Wong told FMT that Azhar’s response simply proved him right and urged the Speaker to keep his word about allowing special committees to continue functioning during the emergency.

“Of course, I know that we can sit again after the emergency. My question is since there will be no sittings or proceedings from January to August, how are we to scrutinise government spending (now)?

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“What are we to do for these seven or eight months if we cannot exercise the mandate given to us by Parliament?” Wong had said. – FMT