P Ramakrishnan on the ‘One-Day Parliament Sitting’

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So, is Muhyiddin running scared – no majority support?

Unlike any other Parliament sitting around the world, the Malaysian Parliament will sit for only one day! Unlike the traditional parliamentary procedure, this Parliament on May 18 will not debate on the King’s speech. Unlike the usual agenda which includes oral question session, written questions, motions, special chambers sittings, etc., this sitting will not have any of this.

According to the letter issued by the Dewan Rakyat Secretary Riduan Rahmat to all MPs, this session is held only to discuss government bills and matters. But this isn’t an emergency session. This is the normal sitting under the Federal Constitution.

This rather unique sitting has shocked the nation and mocked our parliamentary system. We must be the laughingstock of the world which practises the parliamentary democracy as we know!

But does the backdoor government care? It does not!

In a parliamentary system, a debate follows the King’s speech. That is the tradition. After all, it contains the plans and programmes of the government which deserve to be fully debated. In doing away with this practice, the government now cannot be questioned, taken to task or held accountable. There is no opportunity for MPs to enhance certain proposed programmes or include their input in the national interest. This is absurd! This is nonsensical!!

This defies the sanctity of parliamentary procedure! It makes meaningless the purpose of parliamentary sittings. It makes a mockery of the entire process!

Teresa Kok, the Seputeh MP, critically and rightly commented, “The Perikatan Nasional government has no legitimate basis to limit this sitting of Parliament to only one day as despite the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, we have seen lately that many democracies, such as the UK and the US, have convened normal parliamentary sessions.”

Anwar Ibrahim observed that a Parliament sitting must have a debate, even if it is brief, and questioned the rationale of convening the Dewan Rakyat for a day next month.

Anwar even proposed a separate sitting of Parliament for a single day just to address the Covid-19 pandemic that poses a grave danger to the country. But even this was rejected without giving any reason.

Looks like Muhyiddin does not want the rest of the country to be involved in any role or shoulder any responsibility in a joint effort to overcome this danger. He is satisfied in limiting this task to only his cabinet which includes the clueless Minister of Health!

Common sense would debunk any notion that Muhyiddin’s cabinet is the epitome of wisdom! His ministers are fumbling and endangering the country in this crucial period. Various suggestions and critical outlook may be necessary to overcome, not only the menace of the virus but the terrible economic situation we are in.

A mind-boggling amount of loan – RM260 billion to be exact – has been raised for the stimulus package which must be scrutinised and debated and safeguarded so that there will be no leakages, siphoning off any money and possibly prevent other financial abuses to ensure that the money goes to the intended people and for that purpose only.

Now this is not possible. MPs are not able to discharge their duties following this severe undemocratic curbing of their functions. They are unable to fulfil their responsibilities to the voters under this restriction as they are prevented from raising the views of the people and voicing their legitimate grievances.

Truly, what can be achieved in a one-day sitting? It will not be a meaningful session as it denies the elected representatives to play their responsible role in upholding the peoples’ interest and welfare of the nation. It is a farce, a misnomer and a travesty to be called a parliamentary sitting.

If it is not prudent to have a 15-day session – which was to be so during this session – because of the Covid-19 threat, can’t we have the session for a week so that all MPs can jointly debate and discuss the various ways to fight the virus and tackle the worrying economy of the country that is sliding in a downward spiral?

The question is, “Why is Muhyiddin afraid of debate?”

Is he consumed by fear that if a motion of no confidence were to be moved, he might not survive? Parliament should not become subordinate to his desire to remain as PM at whatever cost.

There is perhaps reason to believe that he did not have the majority when he was sworn in as PM. Mahathir is emphatic on this point, claiming that he had 114 MPs supporting him when he sought to be reappointed as PM just before Muhyiddin was sworn in as the 8th PM.

In his interview with Bloomberg on 16 March, Mahathir stated that Muhyiddin did not have the majority at the material time. “We are not very sure why he was chosen. He did not have a majority.”

According to Mahathir, when MPs were subsequently asked to state their preference, Anwar had 92 MPs supporting him and 66 were for him. If this is accurate information, it would mean 158 MPs were against Muhyiddin. Thus, he would have had the support of 64 MPs only.

Mathematics doesn’t lie. Going by these figures, Muhyiddin’s goose would have been cooked if there was a vote of no confidence!

Is this why Muhyiddin has resorted to this un-parliamentary way of doing things? In this way, no such motion of confidence can be moved and that would ensure that he does not lose his backdoor government in order to continue in power. This is what he is craving for. The backdoor government must be protected to preserve his position and power.

Fellow Malaysians, this saying is a good reminder of the present reality: “It is not surprising that more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the ballot box is no longer an instrument that will secure political solutions… They can see that the parliamentary democracy we boast of is becoming a sham.” (Tony Benn) – Rebuilding Malaysia

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

The views expressed here are strictly those of the writer.