Speaker Azhar Roasted for Shooting Down Virtual Parliament

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Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun has received brickbats in the social media after insisting that House proceedings cannot be done online.

Azhar explained that although there have been suggestions that Malaysia could emulate Australia in allowing some MPs to participate in House proceedings through video conferencing, it was not feasible.

He explained that in Australia, those who were not present were not counted as part of quorum, cannot intervene, must provide 15-minute notice in advance and cannot vote.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

“That is why I say, the current legal scheme, leads to (the sitting) being conducted in a physical manner,” he said, according to New Straits Times yesterday.

Opposition figures such as Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fazil, who was in favour of going virtual, had concurred that going virtual would require amendments to the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders.

Azhar’s explanation was published by Star, Berita Harian and NST over the past week and tweeted by BFM yesterday, sans details.

This had led to some Twitter users venting their frustrations at Azhar.

Twitter user @gizmoduck13, for instance, said that if school children could attend lessons online, then MPs could meet virtually too.

Some, such as @mr_skadoosh, suggested that Azhar should at least try, while @madnoh pointed out that some video conferencing systems have proven viable for large groups.

Another Twitter user, @asympthoughts, suggested that Azhar consult the folks at the Parlimen Digital initiative.

Parlimen Digital was a youth-run event in July organised by three NGOs, featuring 222 participants across the country debating and voting on “bills”. It was lauded by Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Rashid Hasnon.

This event was a response to Putrajaya’s decision to hold a one-day Dewan Rakyat sitting in May.

The Dewan Rakyat is scheduled to convene on Nov 2. Budget 2021 will be tabled on Nov 6, and Nov 17 has been set for voting.

However, this sitting may not happen if plans by Putrajaya to impose a state of emergency, which possibly entails the prorogation of Parliament, is allowed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. – Malaysiakini

Earlier report: Oct 23, Speaker: Dewan Rakyat Sitting Cannot Be Held Virtually