Five-day Parliament sitting makes no sense.
The declaration of emergency, its ordinances and the economic effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the country should take precedence over any other matters when Parliament convenes, said lawmakers.
They said the need was made more acute because the government had set the next session of Parliament to just five days.
The emergency and subsequent ordinances must be tabled and debated by MPs, said Umno secretary-general and Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan, after the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the Dewan Rakyat will convene on July 26.
Ahmad felt the house should debate the emergency and demanded extra days to be added to the schedule to facilitate meetings.
“The ordinance should not just be laid on the table, it must be debated. Furthermore, there are many issues to debate. How can they allow only five days?”
“At least we need 20 days to discuss Covid-19 and the 12th Malaysia Plan,” he said in a tweet.
Ahmad said the government must allow face-to-face Parliament meetings as all MPs and staff have been vaccinated.
“I’m not against amending Parliament’s standing orders to allow for hybrid sittings, but that should not take precedence over the emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena-PH).
“We can amend the standing orders to allow for future meetings, but the most urgent issue now is the emergency, which ends on August 1,” said the Amanah vice president.
He said that this is why the King last month had asked for Parliament to meet as soon as possible.
“Parliament wouldn’t be rushed if the government had acted when the king spoke last month,” he said.
Sim Tze Tzin (Bayan Baru-PH) also believes that amending the standing orders to allow for hybrid meetings is not as urgent as debating the emergency.
“As it is, we are already the first group to have achieved herd immunity with all the MPs, senators and Parliament staff vaccinated.
“So, why rush this hybrid idea when there are only five days for more than 200 MPs to voice voters’ concerns?”
Sim, who is the former agriculture deputy minister, said the more urgent issue is to come up with new ideas on how to help Malaysians who have suffered the effects of Covid-19 for 18 months.
“During this period, many have lost their incomes, have resorted to borrowing from loan sharks and even committed suicide. Isn’t it more important to talk about how to help them recover rather than whether we should have hybrid meetings?” said the PKR leader.
Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin said that preparing for hybrid meetings is good but untimely.
“It’s the right thing for the wrong time as there are more urgent issues to look at. I can accept amending the standing orders for future hybrid sessions, but for now, it’s not pertinent.”
Chan repeated the point about Parliament staff and lawmakers being among the first to achieve herd immunity and therefore it’s not a priority to debate this now.
“More urgent is how to help Sabahans who have suffered so much from the pandemic and the lockdowns,” said the DAP leader.
Former agriculture minister Salahuddin Ayub also questioned the number of days allocated to Dewan Rakyat, as this was the first opportunity for MPs to question the government.
PKR leaders Chang Lih Kang (Tg Malim) and Noor Amin Ahmad (Kangar) also said five days were insufficient.
“Due to the emergency, we’ve not met this year and I hope the meetings can be longer so that we can discuss all the measures that have been employed for the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Noor Amin.
“Of course, for me, I have to even know if the emergency is justified in the first place.”
Chang said the five-day meeting is a mockery of Parliament.
Three-term Klang MP Charles Santiago said the sitting was a joke.
“I think the government just wants to explain the packages it has announced. We don’t want a briefing. What we want is a full debate on what it has done or not done,” said Santiago, who believes the government is intentionally limiting the number of Parliament days to avoid being embarrassed.
At two of last year’s meetings, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and more than 40 MPs tabled no-confidence motions against Muhyiddin.
However, the motions were not debated as Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said that government business preceded private members’ bills.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said five days was simply not enough to debate the various issues since then – key among them the Emergency, which was announced on Jan 11, and the government’s Covid-19 related expenditure.
“There are so many questions that have to be answered, they just can’t brush us aside with five days of Parliament. It’s definitely not enough time,” said the PKR lawmaker.
“This is not parliamentary democracy!”
Bakri MP Yeo Bee Yin said that based on the PMO’s statement, it seemed that there would likely be no debates or votes on issues related to Covid-19.
“Are the MPs only going to Parliament to listen to one-way addresses…and debate and vote only on the issue of the hybrid Parliament?” asked the DAP lawmaker in a post on Facebook.
“I hope this is not PN’s (Perikatan Nasional) creative use of words to avoid meaningful discussions on Covid-19 issues in Parliament,” she said, calling upon the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to clarify the matter.
Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said that while he welcomed the sitting, he was concerned there was not enough time to discuss key pending issues.
“Five days is too short a session to properly debate and discuss everything that has happened since the Emergency was announced on Jan 11,” the PKR communications director said.
“The fact that they emphasised that the Proclamation and Ordinances ‘shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament’ may mean they only intend to literally table it without allowing full debate and voting.
“In this case, Parliament becomes a rubber stamp for the Executive and fails to fully realise the meaning of the message by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Malay Rulers on June 16.”
Subang MP Wong Chen echoed a similar concern, saying a sitting of at least 15 days was needed to debate and discuss issues related to the government’s spending and financial policies during the Emergency.
These included the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawals, debt ceiling, and unbudgeted mega projects such as the 5G project.
“My immediate reaction is: (five days) is way too little time. Five days for 220 MPs, including ministers, to debate and reply to these very important issues? Come on, we will need at least 15 days!”
“Our duties as MPs are to debate laws, policies and also to monitor government spending. The government needs to have an additional fiscal session to explain its spendings, and financial policies during the Emergency.”