Malaysian Bar Calls for Longer Parliament Sitting, Enactment of Covid-19 Law

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The Malaysian Bar today said that urgent legislation is needed in order for the government to properly plan for an exit strategy once the movement control order (MCO) is lifted.

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said it was important for the government to extend its Parliamentary sitting so a “Covid-19” law can be enacted to provide protection for businesses and individuals alike who will struggle financially once the MCO is lifted.

Currently, Parliament is scheduled for a one day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat on May 18 where only the speech of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and certain legislations will be tabled for first reading.

The next sitting is scheduled for July 2020.

“So far, the measures that have been announced by the government in relation to commercial activity — apart from ordering businesses and shops to shut or open — lack legitimacy as they are being implemented by way of administrative directives,” he pointed out.

Salim argued that these administrative directives tend to apply only to regulated institutions such as financial institutions, government-linked corporations, government departments, and government agencies and do not include private business transactions.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said that employers cannot sack their employees during the MCO. However, in light of the MCO extensions, and the legal requirement to pay the salaries of employees, employers may have to resort to retrenching employees in order to keep their businesses afloat.

“Even contracts with force majeure clauses may not be sufficient to avoid termination and or penalties for non-performance,” said Salim.

“Legal protection from the unintended non-performance of contracts needs to be provided for specifically, and enacted by way of legislation, so as to provide comprehensive coverage,” he added.

He said the government should look at Singapore who introduced legislation in the second week of April 2020 while the United Kingdom introduced the Coronavirus Act 2020 in March to allow for regulations to be made regarding employment contracts, to protect employers and employees.

“A similar Covid-19 law is desperately needed in Malaysia and must be in place before we emerge from the MCO.

“We strongly urge the government to introduce one as soon as possible and to extend the sitting of the Dewan Rakyat to cater for this.  The Dewan Negara also needs to meet, in order for Parliamentary business to fully take place,” he added.

Malaysia is in phase four of the MCO which will end on May 12. – MMO