PM’s aide: There will be debates, voting in five-day Parliament sitting

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An aide of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said that MPs will be able to debate and vote during the upcoming five-day special Parliament sitting.

However, Marzuki Mohamad, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, did not specify if all the items on the agenda will be debated and voted on.

This came amid concerns that the July 26 to Aug 2 sitting would be limited to mere “briefings” by the government without a vote on the emergency proclamation and emergency ordinances.

Asked about these concerns during a webinar this morning, Marzuki replied saying debates and voting will be allowed.

The detailed agenda will ultimately be up to the prime minister, he added.

“About the agenda of the next Parliament sitting, I don’t want to jump the gun because the PM is the ketua majlis (leader of the house) (who) will set the agenda.

“But I think there will be debates and there will be voting.

“(As for) the specific agenda, I believe the PM will decide and notice will be given to all the MPs,” he answered.

The question was on the Covid-19 National Recovery Plan, the emergency proclamation, and emergency ordinances. Marzuki did not specify these in his response.

He shared that Parliamentary Select Committees (PSCs) will also be allowed to sit during the five-day session.

Two such bodies – the Public Accounts Committee and the PSC on Health, Science, and Innovation – have already announced plans to reconvene.

During the webinar, Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said lauded Putrajaya for Marzuki’s statement.

“Marzuki has emphasised there will be debates (and) there will be voting. I think this is what it should be. We take the bull by its horns.

“If the government believes it is doing a good job, it must stand and explain itself and let the people decide.

“To be fair, the government is trying its very best with these challenges we are facing during the pandemic. So, I think two-way communication will be very good for the rakyat (rather) than one-way communication,” said Umno’s Pengerang MP.

Concerns about the upcoming sitting were raised after a July 5 announcement by the Prime Minister’s Office made no mention of any debate.

It merely said the following laws will be laid before the Dewan Rakyat:

  1. Proclamation of Emergency
  2. Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021
  3. Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021
  4. Emergency (Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021
  5. Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021
  6. Emergency (Essential Powers) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021
  7. Emergency (Offenders Compulsory Attendance) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021
  8. Emergency (National Trust Fund) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021

The Dewan Negara will sit from Aug 3 to Aug 5 to scrutinise these eight laws.

There have also been concerns that the upcoming sitting is too short for Parliament to perform its check and balance role.

Both Marzuki and Azalina were panellists on the “Should the Parliament be a full-time institution?” webinar organised by the Jeffrey Sachs Center for Sustainable Development along with Asian Strategy and Leadership Incorporated.

The two other speakers were Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen and Maha Balakrishnan, co-author of the book Malaysian Parliamentary Procedure: A Guide to the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat.

It was moderated by Sunway University Governance Studies professor Wong Chin Huat.

Yii, who chairs the PSC on Health, Science, and Innovation, proposed that such committees be empowered to compel government departments and agencies to respond to their recommendations.

Marzuki agreed with using technology like video conferencing to facilitate more parliamentary debates or PSC discussions among MPs while the latter work in their constituencies.

Meanwhile, Maha agreed with the need to increase the number of sitting days only if the extension was done to strengthen Parliament’s check and balance functions.

Azalina agreed with suggestions to televise PSC proceedings and proposed that the running of Parliament be made independent from the executive government. – Malaysiakini