What to expect this Parliament session

All eyes on re-tabling of revised Budget 2023 by Anwar on Feb 24 


THE Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is opening the first meeting of the second session of the 15th Parliament today. This will be followed by the royal speech debate, which will last for five days. 

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Johari Abdul said he expected MPs to actively participate in the debate on the royal address without politicising it. He said the King’s address indicates the direction of the country and MPs should contribute to the journey of the country instead of politicising the situation. 

There will be a prime minister’s question and answer (PMQ) session, which will be carried out as a pilot test every Tuesday. 

“We suggest that the session be held every Tuesday for PM Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to answer questions that are addressed to him, and on Thursday, there will be the minister’s question time session. 

“This is one of the reforms that will be implemented, but it cannot be made as a regular session yet…we will start it as a pilot test first, so that we can identify problems that may arise,” he told Bernama. 

He said the introduction of the PMQ session will also require amendments to the Standing Order of the Dewan Rakyat, before it can be made a regular session of the Dewan Rakyat. 

In an effort to ensure motions brought by MPs can be discussed, Johari said the Special Chamber session will also be improved by increasing the number of motions from two to four per session. 

Johari said he also intends to give the Opposition MPs and government backbenchers an opportunity to lead the session. 

“This means that not only I and the two deputy speakers of the Dewan Rakyat can steer the session, but also other MPs,” he added. 

Johari said he had also proposed to make it compulsory for all MPs to undergo medical check-ups every six months to ensure they are in good health and able to carry out their duties effectively. 

A hotly anticipated session at the August House would be Anwar’s tabling of the revised Budget 2023 on Feb 24. As the finance minister, Anwar has said that the focus of his revised budget would be to alleviate the public’s burden with regards to the high cost of living. 

Johari aims to strengthen the role of the PSC with aim to bolster the role of the existing ministries (pic: Bernama)

Strengthening the PSC 

Meanwhile, Johari, who has about 15 years of experience as an MP, aims to strengthen the role of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) with aim to bolster the role of the existing ministries. 

The PSC is a special committee established by Parliament to carry out specific tasks and inquiries. Its main purpose is to provide a platform for MPs to examine and gather information on specific issues, as well as to make recommendations for the government to consider. 

Established in 1963, the committee is formed of MPs from both the ruling and Opposition parties, who are appointed by the speaker. 

The committee operates independently from the government, allowing for impartial and unbiased investigations into various issues, including matters of national importance. This can include issues such as public scandals, the allocation of government funds and the performance of government agencies. 

The PSC also conducts public hearings, where witnesses and experts can provide testimony and evidence related to the matter under investigation. 

“The committee, which is composed of MPs from both the administration and the Opposition, can provide recommendations and reports for the check-and-balance procedure and address problems that arise at the relevant ministries,” Johari said during a meet and greet session with the media last week. 

Over the years, the PSC has been involved in numerous high-profile investigations, including the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) case. 

These investigations have helped to uncover corruption and mismanagement within the government, and have played a crucial role in promoting transparency and accountability in the public sector. 

“The PSC will hold debates, discuss the plans and present their findings,” Johari said. 

The PSC is also an important component of the country’s democratic process. By providing a platform for MPs to examine and gather information on specific issues, the PSC helps to ensure that the government is held accountable for its actions and policies. 

Parliament Act to be Amended 

Additionally, Johari said in order to establish a first-rate Parliament, the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act of 1952 is anticipated to be upgraded, including increasing the maximum fine from RM1,000 to RM10,000 to be levied on House members who break the set regulations. 

The Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 outlines the powers and privileges of the Parliament, the rights and privileges of the MPs, as well as the powers of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

Under this act, MPs are granted immunity from legal action for anything they say in Parliament. This means that MPs cannot be sued for libel or slander for statements made during parliamentary debates or in committee meetings. 

This is an important provision, as it allows MPs to freely express their views and opinions without fear of legal repercussions. 

“However, according to the law, MPs who make offensive, racial, or gender-based statements can be fined and expelled from the Dewan,” Johari said. 

The Act also outlines the powers of the Speakers of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara. 

The Speakers have the power to enforce the rules of Parliament and to maintain order during parliamentary debates. They can also adjourn Parliament if necessary. 

“The Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 is an important piece of legislation, as it outlines the powers and privileges of the Parliament of Malaysia and helps to ensure the democratic process in the country,” Johari said. 

By protecting the rights of MPs and providing them with the necessary tools to effectively scrutinise the government, this act helps to promote accountability and transparency in the public sector. 

Regarding media coverage of the Dewan Rakyat sitting, Johari said media members would be allowed to be in the Parliament lobby to get reactions from the ministers or MPs. Prior to this, they were not allowed to do so following the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Dewan Rakyat sitting will be for 29 days until March 30. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition