Deeply disappointed with the Perikatan Nasional government’s announcement of a one-day parliamentary sitting on 18 May, Aliran issued a statement “One-day meet only: Don’t mock Parliament!”, which called upon PN to have a proper sitting so that critical issues could be tabled and debated immediately.
Aliran then initiated a petition on 24 April calling for at least a two-week parliamentary sitting from 18 May (excluding the Raya break) to be held. Signatures in support of the petition swelled and this morning, surpassed the 50,000-mark – and more people are still signing on and throwing their support for a meaningful parliamentary session.
Despite their lives being disrupted by the pandemic, people have kept in mind the importance of parliamentary democracy in the country and the need to hold the government accountable through adequate parliamentary checks and balances.
On 1 May, the PM announced that the government would enforce a conditional movement control order from 4 May to ease the partial lockdown implemented since 18 March to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. There would now be greater movement beyond the 10km radius, groups of four people from the same home would be allowed to travel in the same car, restaurants could have dine-in customers with a two-metre gap between tables, and commuters with face masks may even use light rail and mass rapid transit with social distancing.
But why is freedom still restricted and denied for members of Parliament? With this easing of restrictions, the reason for holding only a one-day sitting of Parliamentary is now no longer valid. The one-day sitting can now be extended to a two-week sitting. It is possible to arrange for proper social distancing in Parliament or teleconferencing as has been done in the UK and Singapore. These countries have shown that Parliament can meet meaningfully and parliamentary procedure and practice need not be sacrificed. Why, South Korea even successfully held parliamentary elections in mid-April!
Parliamentary democracy is important and all efforts must be made to ensure it is not reduced to a sham. The government must at the next parliamentary sitting discuss and debate legislation, plans and programmes for the country. All the 222 MPs participating in the discussion will yield a better strategy and contribute to effective planning.
At this sitting, the government must be held accountable for its plans and the huge expenditure incurred during the pandemic. MPs must be allowed to scrutinise the RM260bn stimulus package, discuss ways to handle layoffs and debate the government’s handling of both documented and undocumented migrants during the lockdown.
The country is in crisis. The country’s economy is in dire straits and people are struggling to survive amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, we need ethical leadership, good governance and people-centred policies. Greed and power grabbing will only lead this country further into ruin. We have seen so much of this, and it is time for it to stop. National interest, ie the wellbeing of the people, must come first.
Aliran’s fervent hope is for both the government and the opposition MPs to prioritise the needs of the country and the people during this extended Parliament sitting.
The petition’s call for an extended sitting and meaningful debate will be conveyed soon to Prime Minister Tan Sri Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and Dewan Rakyat secretary Riduan Rahmat. It will also be sent to opposition party leaders Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PKR), Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Bersatu), Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal (Warisan), Mohamad Sabu (Amanah) and Lim Guan Eng (DAP).
6 May 2020