Dewan Rakyat reconvenes

Changes are aplenty on MPs line-up after 7 independent MPs were absorbed into Bersatu in February


TODAY’S opening of the second session of the 14th Parliament promises to be a precursor for a colourful sitting taking into account latest developments, which include a new King at helm and new political alliances formed in the last three months.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is scheduled to deliver his royal address at 10am today to open both the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat sittings.

In his maiden speech in the august house, Sultan Abdullah, 59, is anticipated to highlight issues relating to national unity and peace, economic stability as well as social issues.

Changes are also aplenty on the MPs line-up after the Pakatan Harapan coalition moved closer to a two-thirds majority, when seven independent MPs — who won their seats as Barisan Nasional candidates last year — were absorbed into Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in February.

Several independent candidates have also crossed over to join the ruling coalition since the 14th General Election. In total, the government bloc now has 135 MPs, 13 seats shy of a two-thirds majority.

The Dewan Rakyat sitting, which convenes today for 20 days until April 11, will also witness Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Mohd Nor making his debut following his by-election victory on Jan 26. He is the first person from the Orang Asli community to be elected into the Dewan Rakyat.

The meeting will also witness the tabling of the much-anticipated white paper on the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) after it was postponed in December last year on legal clearance.

The white paper is expected to give a full account on the state of the troubled plantation agency and will include proposals to trim Felda’s RM8 billion debt. Issues of poor management and allegations of corruption have plagued the agency in recent years.

It is widely speculated that the report could include plans to privatise its listed arm FGV Holdings Bhd and merge Felda with the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority Bhd.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who will present the report, had recently said he will also consider the proposal to reclaim 320,000ha of land leased to FGV as part of efforts to revive the agency. If reclaimed, the assets could earn Felda up to RM1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, several bills are also expected to be tabled in this sitting, including the potential abolishment of capital punishments and the colonial Sedition Act 1948.

While the new government is committed to eliminate both laws, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong said certain parts in the Sedition Act may be retained, such as clauses which protect the monarch.

On the death penalty, Liew hinted that the punishment for drug-related offences may be abolished, but judges could be given the discretion to impose the death penalty for certain crimes.

Amendments to existing laws are also scheduled to take place, with the Employment Act 1955 likely to see major changes. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1994 will also be amended to hold construction site owners and architects responsible for incidents at their sites.

Currently, only contractors are held responsible for accidents at the construction site. The amendment will see severe fines imposed on three responsible parties, namely the employer, the architect and the contractor in the event of an accident at the workplace.

The Public Service Act (PSA) is among several proposed laws that will be tabled in the current sitting, which aims to ensure the separation of power between civil servants and the political administration. Malaysia is the only country in the world without the PSA.

Other bills include to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission and to upgrade the Health Ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Division to a Food Safety Authority.

Dewan Rakyat speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof has also hinted that more select committees will be formed. In December last year, he announced the establishment of six new select committees, a reshuffle in existing committees and the establishment of the caucus on reform and governance.

The six select committees were for consideration of bills; on budget; on defence and home affairs; on rights and gender equality; on states and federal relations and on major public appointments.