After over six months’ suspension, Parliament finally reconvened on Monday, 26 July 2021.
This only came about after much pressure on the prime minister and his cabinet from the opposition, NGOs, the people and the Agong, who repeatedly called for Parliament to convene.
Many had argued that there was no reason to suspend Parliament even during emergency rule.
The ongoing parliamentary sitting is for only five days, scheduled to end on 2 August – and now outrageously postponed purportedly due to a Covid risk.
At the sitting on 26 July, de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan, responding to Lim Guan Eng’s question on the emergency, nonchalantly claimed the emergency ordinances had been revoked on 21 July, allegedly at the weekly cabinet meeting.
This startling announcement raised more questions than answers. Why wasn’t the revocation made public earlier? Why was it not published in the government gazette? Did the Agong sign the revocation order?
The next day, 27 July, Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun ruled that all questions on the emergency would only be dealt with by the de facto law minister on Monday, 2 August – and the raging controversy would be strictly off-limits until then.
This ruling, of course, made no sense. Many saw it as a government bid to buy time to come up with some credible answers. Moreover, by the time Parliament reconvenes, the issue would be water under the bridge, as the emergency would end on 1 August and would not be extended.
To any impartial observer, the Speaker’s ruling brings his independence into serious question.
Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa, probably sensing the trouble the ruling coalition was in, then contradicted his cabinet colleague by claiming the emergency ordinances were “not revoked” but merely “in the process” of revocation only.
For many, the purported ‘revocation’ of the emergency ordinances was aimed at avoiding a debate and crucially, a vote on the emergency. Obviously, the government lacks confidence it can muster enough support in Parliament to win a vote on this issue.
This turn of events is disappointing but hardly surprising: this backdoor government has a massive trust deficit. Covid infections have surged despite the prolonged lockdowns, which have caused immense grief.
Many believe the declaration of emergency rule in January was aimed at preserving the positions of those in power rather than curbing the Covid outbreak and developing an effective recovery plan to ease the people’s suffering.
Sadly, so many people are suffering during these tough times. More and more people are falling into the low-income group. Surely, we do not want to reach a stage where the bottom 40% of households (the low-income category) has widened to become the bottom 50% or 60%!
We simply cannot have too much power concentrated in the hands of the executive. We must uphold the concept of the separation of powers and make it sacrosanct.
Good governance is only possible if there are proper checks and balances in the system. For that, we need the three arms of government – the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – to remain independent.
Read our statement below:
The Agong has never to our recollection so openly rebuked the government of the day.
The whole nation now knows the government misled Parliament and the people on 26 July, when de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan told the House that six emergency ordinances had been revoked on 21 July.
The palace now says the Agong was not consulted before Takiyuddin’s announcement in Parliament.
Aliran is appalled at this shocking turn of events. It means the so-called ‘revocation’ was made without going through the proper procedure stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
It also means the Mahiaddin Yasin government has violated the Federal Constitution, which is why many lawmakers have accused the government of having committed treason.
Not only that, the government has been grossly disrespectful of the Agong. In a virtual meeting with the attorney general and Takiyuddin on 24 July, the Agong had expressly stated the emergency ordinances should be tabled before Parliament and debated.
This was ignored. The emergency declaration and emergency ordinances were not laid before Parliament because the government was fearful of being defeated if the revocation was put to a vote.
Disrespect of this nature is ironic coming from parties that often loudly claim they uphold race, religion and royalty.
To go to these lengths of deception is unprecedented in the annals of our history. It reflects an arrogance of being in power that has now culminated in an enormous abuse of power. This was first manifested in the ill-conceived bid to seek emergency rule and then to suspend Parliament and now, to top it all, mislead the House and the people about the revocation of the emergency ordinances.
Given the gravity of all this, Mahiaddin and his government have little choice but to resign immediately. And given their roles in perpetuating all this, the Speaker of Parliament and the attorney general should follow suit.
It is hard to see how all of them can function effectively, let alone be trusted by the people again.
It is time to end this ordeal. Never again should this nation have to go through such shameful events. [End of statement]
That said, we need to do our part and voice our protests against all forms of abuse, corruption and injustice. We should never waver in our struggle for justice and what is right.
We cannot allow the authorities to intimidate and pressure our activists such as Fahmi Reza, Heidi Quah, Sarah Irdina Mohammad Ariff, the young contract doctors standing up for their rights, and today’s crowd of over 500 brave #Lawan protesters calling for the PM’s resignation. These courageous activists and youths have shone a light, articulating the grievances of so many suffering people.
We deserve better and at the next general election, let us all choose our leaders wisely.Henry Loh
Coordinator, Aliran newsletter
31 July 2021