Bersih 2.0: No reason to limit number of MPs at Parliament

This is in light of the various available alternatives and technologies used by foreign counterparts so that their Parliaments can continue to operate effectively

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE upcoming Parliament sitting in September should utilise alternative technologies to allow all MPs to attend the meetings, said the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0).

The NGO was responding to Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon’s announcement that the number of lawmakers who will attend the next sitting will be limited due to the Covid-19 cases detected at Parliament recently.

“We are of the view that this is a repeat of the same reason used to suspend the functioning of the Parliament earlier.

“This is in light of the various available alternatives and technologies used by foreign counterparts so that their Parliaments can continue to operate effectively.

“Is the proposal to limit the attendance of MPs to the Dewan Rakyat one of the attempts to delay and further postpone the sitting of Parliament or is this a move to prevent the motion of confidence against the prime minister from running smoothly and fairly?” the group questioned in a statement yesterday.

Bersih 2.0 said having been living with the new norm for over a year amid the pandemic, there should be no reason for the government, particularly the Ministry of Health (MoH), to not be able to provide a safe environment for the check-and-balance body of the country to continue to function.

“Suspending and postponing Parliament is no longer the solution. Bersih 2.0 takes into serious consideration the latest statement by Rashid, who stated that the number of MPs will be limited at the upcoming session of the Dewan Rakyat starting Sept 6 on the grounds of curbing the spread of Covid-19.

“We also take note of the statement by Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah who stated that there were 97 positive Covid-19 cases linked to Parliament, including one death involving an officer for a deputy minister,” the group said.

Bersih 2.0 also called for the MoH and Parliament to take proactive measures to encourage the legal institution to function safely and allow the democratic checks and balances process of the national policies.

“Amendments to the Standing Orders must be expedited to allow parliamentary sittings and parliamentary committee meetings to be held either virtually or in hybrid mode.

“We would like to remind the health DG to be professional in discharging his duties and to remain politically neutral.

“MoH and the Covid-19 pandemic should not be used for the political interests of the Perikatan Nasional government to circumvent the vote of confidence in Parliament.

“If the health DG cannot even bring the Covid-19 virus under control in one confined area of Parliament building for very important parliamentary sittings, can we actually expect him to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic nationwide?”

The group added that stalling the democratic process will further hamper efforts to address and curb the spread of the rapidly escalating Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Mohd Rashid said limiting the number of MPs was to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly, as well as to prevent further spread of the coronavirus similar to what had happened during the five-day special sitting at the end of July.

Mohd Rashid added that the Dewan Rakyat Committee, based on advice from the National Security Council and MoH, will discuss with chief whips from the government and Opposition side regarding the decision.

The special sitting of the third session of the 14th Parliament for Dewan Rakyat was supposed to take place from July 26 to July 29, and Aug 2, but only met for four days and was postponed after Covid-19 cases were detected in the Parliament building.

The first meeting of the Fourth Session of the 14th Parliament will sit for 15 days from Sept 6 to 30, while the second meeting will run for 32 days from Oct 25 to Dec 16.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah will officiate the opening ceremony on Sept 6.