Speaker: Dewan Rakyat Sitting Cannot Be Held Virtually

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Dewan Rakyat proceedings cannot be conducted via a virtual platform.

This as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s proclamation provides for its proceedings to be held in the Parliament building.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun said the legal scheme as contained in the Federal Constitution related to the Dewan Rakyat also concludes to physical proceedings being held.

“It has been repeatedly said that it is not possible to hold (sittings) virtually. At (the beginning of) each annual meeting, there will be a proclamation from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and for this year’s meeting, the proclamation was made in December last year.

“Based on the proclamation, the proceedings are to be held in the Parliament building. It is tough to do it virtually because of the many rules and regulations that need to be amended.

“If we look at the rules (involving) the meeting, the scheme is only meant for a physical meeting, the Speaker determines the seat of the (Member of Parliament), if there is a need to intervene, you have to ask for permission (from the Speaker) and more (regulations). That is our law,” he said when contacted by Berita Harian.

He was commenting on the calls made by various parties, specifically health experts who urged that the upcoming sitting of the Dewan Rakyat be held virtually to avoid the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Azhar said, though many parties had stated that the Parliament sitting could be done virtually as was implemented by Australia, in fact such a move was difficult to be implemented.

He explained that based on checks involving virtual conference conducted by Australia, a virtual Member of Parliament there is not counted in as a quorum , cannot intervene and if he wants to speak, a 15-minute notice must be given in advance and he/she is also not allowed to vote.

“Compared to the sitting in our country, based on Article 62 (5) of the Federal Constitution which involves Parliament procedure, members (of Parliament) who are not present in a Parliamentary Assembly, are not allowed to vote.

“That is why I say, the current legal scheme leads to (the sitting) be conducted in a physical manner,” he said.

Commenting on the number of media personnel being limited this time around to cover Parliament proceedings, Azhar said there was no intention to restrict freedom of the press, but strict measures needed to be taken to ensure that Parliament is free from the Covid-19 transmission.

“I understand and it is not my intention to limit the number of media (personnel), but at this time everyone needs to make a sacrifice. Not that I want to restrain (media presence). If I am really strict, no media will be allowed to cover except official media. I try to do my best.

“Even Members of Parliament, Parliamentary and ministry personnel have to go through very strict screening. All had to undergo a Covid-19 screening test. Members of Parliament from Sabah need to undergo quarantine first and are not allowed to return (to Sabah) during the meeting period,” he said.

The Third Meeting of the Third Term of the 14th Dewan Rakyat session will run from Nov 2 to Dec 15. The highlight of the meeting is expected to be the 2021 Budget which will be tabled on Nov 6. – NST