by AZREEN HANI / pic by BERNAMA
DEPUTY Dewan Rakyat speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (picture) has called for the formation of a Special Emergency Cabinet that would function with limited powers, as well as a Bipartisan Special Parliamentary Committee that could provide check and balance during the current state of emergency.
In her letter dated Feb 17 addressed to the Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun, Azalina also questioned the suspension of Parliament, saying she is “bewildered” over the lack of efforts to facilitate Parliament sittings.
“Being an MP who has served for approximately 17 years now, I am bewildered as to how and why we are unable to and or refuse to employ means in the ordinance to facilitate Parliament sittings like other nations have,” she wrote.
The letter was also copied to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, among others.
“Instead of improvising so parliamentary proceedıngs can take place, the government has opted to suspend parliamentary sittings altogether.
“If that was not enough, the AG’s Chambers has now advised the government, rather restrictively I may add, that all activities of committees established in Parliament including Special Select Committees (SCs) can no longer continue even if conducted virtually.”
She expressed her concerns that the executive appears to have “free rein” over the affairs of the country during the emergency, with the legislature’s function “emasculated” while the SCs’ activities terminated.
“Flowing from this, several questions arise, how will the executives be held to account for their decisions if Parliament is unable to exercise its main constitutional function?
“What is the rationale for not allowing SCs to continue their activities? Why are measures not taken to enable Parliament to have sittings like in other countries?”
The Pengerang MP said other countries with higher Covid-19 cases have not suspended their Parliament.
Citing the UK as an example, Azalina said the Western country has made significant technical and procedural work to allow the sitting safely and efficiently.
She also highlighted that 90 parliamentarians from the SouthEast Asian region had expressed their concerns over the suspension of the Malaysian Parliament.
Former and current democratically-elected parliamentarians from six Asean countries have called on the government to reconvene the parliamentary sitting as soon as possible.
“The fact that so many lawmakers from across the region are speaking out shows the level of regional concern over the emergency’s impact on parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, and of possible long-lasting implications this could have on the lives of its people,” Tom Villarin, a Board Member of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights and a former Philippine MP said in a statement.
“We have seen how pandemic-related measures adopted in other South-East Asian countries have increasingly restricted human rights, and thus adequate safeguards must be put in place.”
Read our previous report here