Let Parliament debate and vote on matters of national importance

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The Malaysian Bar acknowledges that Parliament will now resume, beginning from Monday, 26 July 2021.

The Malaysian Bar commends the government’s decision to reconvene Parliament before the intended last day of the proclamation of emergency on 1 August 2021.

Notwithstanding the announcement of the dates for the sitting of the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) and the Senate (Dewan Negara), the sitting of both Houses of Parliament are still not regular sittings of the House of Representatives and the Senate. They have been called pursuant to Standing Order 11(3) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives and Standing Order 10(3) of the Standing Orders of the Senate.

The reconvening of both Houses of Parliament is no guarantee that motions of national importance will be introduced and that a vote will be taken on such motions. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office dated 5 July 2021 has stated the following:

Kerajaan telah bersetuju untuk menasihati Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong supaya Mesyuarat Khas Penggal Ketiga Parlimen Keempat Belas diadakan selama 5 hari mulai 26 hingga 29 Julai dan 2 Ogos 2021 bagi Dewan Rakyat dan 3 hari mulai 3 hingga 5 Ogos 2021 bagi Dewan Negara.

Mesyuarat ini bertujuan untuk memberi penerangan kepada Ahli-Ahli Parlimen mengenai Pelan Pemulihan Negara dan meminda semua perundangan dan peraturan bagi membolehkan persidangan Parlimen diadakan secara hibrid. Berdasarkan Fasal (3) Perkara 150 Perlembagaan Persekutuan, semua proklamasi darurat dan ordinan yang dibuat oleh Yang di-Pertuan Agong akan dibentangkan di hadapan kedua-dua Majlis Parlimen (shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament).

Based on the above, the only voting that will clearly be undertaken is in respect of amending all laws and regulations to permit hybrid (part-physical, part-online) sittings of Parliament.

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Beyond that, the statement refers to Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution, whereby “a Proclamation of Emergency and any ordinance promulgated under Clause (2B) shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and … shall cease to have effect if resolutions are passed by both Houses annulling such Proclamation or ordinance. …”

Whether or not such a resolution is even introduced in both Houses of Parliament is at the discretion of the government of the day, which controls the business of both Houses of Parliament. Motions of national importance may not be introduced on the grounds that parliamentary time needs to be prioritised for government business.

In the absence of any definitive statement that motions pertaining to the proclamation of emergency and/or the emergency ordinances will be allowed to be introduced during the sitting, or that members of the House of Representatives will be allowed to vote on any such motions, the government of the day will merely lay the proclamation of emergency and the emergency ordinances before both Houses of Parliament, thus fulfilling the provision of Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution.

To avoid this, we call upon the prime minister to give his personal assurance, as Leader of the House of Representatives, that the upcoming sitting of the House of Representatives will not merely be a reporting exercise. It must provide all parties concerned with a real and meaningful opportunity to submit motions and to have them accepted, in relation to the proclamation of emergency and/or the emergency ordinances, as well as the national rehabilitation plan (pelan pemulihan negara) and/or matters of national importance, and to allow for sufficient time for these motions to be debated and voted upon.

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The government owes a duty to the citizenry of Malaysia to have matters of national importance duly debated and voted upon in Parliament.

AG Kalidas is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

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