Not only was the short 18 May stint seen by many as a mockery of parliamentary democracy, it also deprived MPs of the opportunity to discuss urgent matters, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
It was rather bizarre to watch live on television – courtesy of the official media outfit RTM – politicians who were voted out of power two years ago comfortably seated at the government bench, led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, in the third session of the 14th Parliament on 18 May.
On the other hand, Pakatan Harapan (PH) MPs switched places to occupy the opposition bench, together with Bersatu’s tiny fraction led by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It was also surreal to note that the parliamentary sitting, the first for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government since its formation following the Sheraton Move, lasted for about an hour to allow the lawmakers to only listen to the Agong’s royal address.
PN’s unwavering decision to have a brief session prompted protests from the opposition, civil society organisations, legal eagles and concerned Malaysians. A few lawyers had already questioned the constitutional legality of this brief sitting.
It is regrettable that the government also refused to entertain the suggestion from a few groups to hold an online parliamentary session, modelled after the experience of the UK and other democracies, to overcome health issues related to Covid-19.
Not only was this short stint seen by many as a mockery of parliamentary democracy, it also deprived lawmakers of the opportunity to discuss urgent matters pertaining to the crisis that we now face, such as the funds for economic stimulus packages.
It is precisely because this pandemic has brought about a variety of problems to society that the parliamentary session ought to have been extended so that both the government and the opposition could address such urgent items of business.
Moreover, it is the convention that the royal address be subsequently debated by parliamentarians for a period.
For instance, the King in his royal address called on employers to avoid sacking their employees and asked the government to extend help to the tourism and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Malaysians would surely want to know what solutions both the government and the opposition could offer to these urgent issues if the parliamentary session had been extended.
In his address, the King also rightly called on politicians not to drag the country to another round of political uncertainty, what with the pandemic still haunting the nation and the world.
This issue certainly deserved the lawmakers’ attention and deliberations in Parliament, especially in the wake of the power grab and the fall of the PH governments of Johor, Malacca, Perak and Kedah that happened in recent weeks.
Why, there was even talk of certain quarters possibly bringing down two other PH states.
In the meantime, journalists and photographers from non-official media organisations were barred from entering Parliament, as if to carry out someone’s strange notion of social distancing.
A reporter fainted, standing among his peers outside the Parliament gate after soaking in the morning sun.
With words unspoken, the lawmakers left the Parliament building where the trading of barbs and banter used to be the norm.