Only King’s speech on the agenda at Dewan Rakyat’s May 18 sitting

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ graphic by MZUKRI

THE MPs at the next parliament sitting on May 18 will only hear the Royal Address without any other business scheduled for the day.

This means several items that had been scheduled for the one-day sitting will not be presented to the House.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff in making the announcement said he received a letter from the prime minister (PM) that the Parliament sitting will only be convened to hear the speech by the King due to caution as the country has not recovered from the coronavirus.

“I have received a letter signed by PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the chairman of the House of Representatives, informing that due to the unresolved pandemic faced by the country, the government has decided that the first meeting of the third term of the 14th Parliament will convene on May 18, at 10am.

“It will only include the Royal Order by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. No meeting will take place after that,” Mohamad Ariff said in a statement yesterday.

He said the government has the power to amend the schedule under Parliamentary Standing Order 11(2) and 15(2).

Initially, besides the Royal Address, the session was scheduled to dispose of several government matters including the appointment of the Opposition leader, the appointment of the select committee, as well as the chairman and vice-chairman chairman of the National Finance Committee.

Two supplementary supply bills were also supposed to be tabled for its first reading, as well as a motion to adjourn debate on the King’s speech.

It would have also been the first time Malaysia will witness a vote of no confidence against a sitting PM, a motion brought forth by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Speaking in a video statement, Dr Mahathir said the decision to cancel the usual debate and vote on the King’s address was against parliamentary protocol.

“I’ve been told that even though the Speaker had accepted that I can bring a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin, this will not take place in the one-day sitting, even the government’s own motions will not be presented.

“What kind of sitting is this? It is convened to hear a speech, this is not a Parliament sitting.”

Dr Mahathir said the cancellation of all business except for the King’s speech has also deprived him of his democratic right to argue a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin or determine that he had the majority support at the time when he was sworn in as PM.

Dr Mahathir said he would leave it to the experts to determine whether this constitutes a Parliament sitting under the Constitution.

Economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam believes the one-day sitting will only delay debates and discussions on issues relating to Covid-19 that is affecting the nation. “Why the haste? There are so many issues and reforms waiting to be debated,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) when contacted.

He believes the move does not speak well well on developing an open and free Parliament democracy, especially during the time of the pandemic. “At this time, what is needed is unity, we have to reflect on a healthy democracy. Using Covid-19 as the reason is unacceptable,” Navaratnam said.

Political economist Professor Dr Hoo Kee Ping believes what Muhyiddin is doing is fulfilling the requirement of the Federal Constitution, which is to ensure the Parliament convenes within six months.

“Speaking as a voter, honestly we don’t need so much politics, but what he is doing is merely fulfilling the requirements of the procedures.

“It is well within his power, fair or not fair. We can say whatever we want about his move, he is the PM,” Hoo told TMR.

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto said she is surprised that there is no government motion as opposed to having one earlier.

“We must put the interest of the people ahead of personal agenda.

“The fact that there is no government agenda is a display of the art of escapism at its very best or worst,” she told TMR.

According to Article 55(1) of the Federal Constitution, the PM can advise the King to postpone Parliament in such manner — provided that it is not more than six months since the last sitting.

The last sitting of the Dewan Rakyat was on Dec 5, 2019, while the Dewan Negara last convened on Dec 19, 2019.

That being said, the last date which Muhyiddin could stretch the convening of Parliament would be June 19, 2020.