The infrequency and indefinite nature of parliamentary sessions since the Sheraton Move last year has been a source of deep concern for the people.
In a democracy, Parliament is the key venue where the people’s elected representatives, ie MPs and state assembly members, meet to discuss the public grievances and concerns.
So the closure of Parliament over a long period and the all-too-brief sessions when Parliament is reconvened are a serious transgression of the people’s right to be heard. As a result, many serious concerns have had to be placed on the back burner.
The first parliamentary sitting for this year, which began on July 26, was much awaited by MPs and the people. Parliament was finally convened after much pressure from the politicians, civil society groups and even the Agong.
But what a let down it was. The emergency ordinances and the emergency proclamation were not tabled for discussion and voting in the august House.
Public disappointment did not end there. The session was abruptly adjourned on 29 July after the Agong rebuked the Perikatan Nasional government over its purported backdated ‘revocation’ of the emergency ordinances and the emergency proclamation.
As if this was not enough, we are now told that tomorrow’s sitting has been deferred indefinitely. The reason given is spurious: several Parliament workers have been found to be Covid-positive. It is surely more than a a medical irony that Parliament was allowed to sit on 26 July when the percentage of positive cases in Parliament was 2.8%, but not allowed to do so tomorrow when the rate is only 0.9%.
Of course, this does not warrant a total shutting of Parliament as there are other options that could enable a sitting to continue if a full physical attendance is really impossible. A hybrid Parliament or completely virtual session would be a viable alternative, as many other nations have shown. So why is this not possible here?
Many have suggested that the delay in convening Parliament and the brief sessions are due to Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin’s fear of being defeated if a resolution or motion is put forward for voting. He seems more inclined to protect his political interests rather than caring for the welfare of those badly hit by the pandemic.
We resent the flippant way the Mahiaddin-led administration convenes and adjourns Parliament at its whims and fancies, apparently with its political fortunes in mind.
We call for a greater frequency in parliamentary sittings and for longer durations. The dates for these sittings should be fixed, and additional emergency sessions should be allowed if anything extraordinary happens.Aliran executive committee
1 August 2021