Mixed reactions to proposed hybrid Parliament sitting

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Enough time starting now to summon a sitting in July.

FMT

There have been mixed reactions to the news that a hybrid Parliament sitting has been proposed in late August or the first week of September and for a special committee to look into the technical aspects.

Announcing the proposal in a joint statement earlier today, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun and Dewan Negara president Rais Yatim said the sitting could discuss amendments to the Standing Orders.

They said under the proposed hybrid sitting, at least 26 MPs or 10 senators need to be present physically in the House, while other MPs or senators are to follow the proceedings virtually.

Their proposal comes a week after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah decreed that Parliament should be reopened “as soon as possible”.

Minister in the prime minister’s department Redzuan Yusof told FMT today’s proposal was a “move in the right direction”, stressing that the government was trying to find the best way to reconvene Parliament during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today, we still have over 5,800 cases, but the government is committed to reconvening Parliament,” he said.

“At this special sitting, we will get consensus on how we can have Parliament sittings without compromising the safety of MPs and Parliament workers.”

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the announcement was a victory for the people, civil societies and political parties that had been pushing for Parliament to reconvene.

“This shows that in a time of crisis the voice of the people matters,” he told FMT.

“The same momentum should be brought to ensure vaccinations are expedited and mass testing is carried out.”

However, other MPs were not as enthusiastic.

Former prime minister Najib Razak said there was no need for the special sitting in August if its sole purpose was to approve amendments to the Standing Orders.

In a post on his Facebook page, the Pekan MP said the government could use its emergency powers to allow the hybrid Parliament sitting to convene in early August instead of September.

Najib also questioned the need for a hybrid Parliament sitting, considering that eight states have confirmed plans to reconvene their legislative assemblies after either fixing dates for their sittings or awaiting consent from their heads of state.

“Is the life of an assemblyman not as important as the life of an MP? Or are assemblymen braver than MPs?”

Selayang MP William Leong said hybrid Parliament sittings have been organised in numerous countries since last year and disagreed with the idea of forming a committee just to study the concept in Malaysia.

“I don’t think anyone believes it’s (hybrid Parliament sitting) so difficult that we need a committee to study this,” he told FMT.

“Why reinvent the wheel? What’s so difficult? It’s not rocket science.”

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said the Agong and other Malay Rulers did not decree that a special committee should approve the planning of a hybrid Parliament sitting.

“They decreed that ‘Parliament must reconvene as soon as possible’,” he said on Twitter.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said it was “disappointing” that the government wanted to wait until August for the special sitting, stating that this “clearly contradicts” the stand taken by the Agong and other Malay Rulers.

“There is enough time starting now to summon a sitting in July. As I recall, all MPs have already received their vaccines,” he said.

Khalid added that strict SOPs such as limiting the number of government officers and MPs’ aides would be a good measure to reduce the number of people in Parliament.

Last week, Istana Negara said the Agong wanted Parliament to reconvene as soon as possible as he was aware of Parliament’s important role in discussing issues involving Covid-19.

In a statement, the Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the Agong took this stand after being briefed by the special emergency committee and experts, adding that Parliament sittings would allow for the emergency ordinance and the national recovery plan to be debated by MPs.

In a separate statement issued by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, the Malay Rulers said they agreed with the Agong’s decree for Parliament to reconvene as soon as possible. – FMT


Earlier report: Jun 25, Suggestion of hybrid sitting of Parliament at end Aug or early Sept