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Never again should Parliament be suspended!

The backdoor revocation of the emergency ordinances suggests that the government is afraid of an examination of its record

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Aliran is appalled to learn that the government surreptitiously revoked all six emergency ordinances ahead of the reconvening of the long-suspended Parliament.

The government claims it revoked the ordinances on 21 July. This was apparently done by stealth as there was reportedly nothing in the government gazette at 1pm today to show the ordinances had been revoked.

This revocation appears aimed at pre-empting the requirement under Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution for the proclamation of emergency and the ordinances to be tabled before the Houses of Parliament for a debate. The government was probably not confident it had enough support to pass the resolutions on them.

The backdoor revocation of the emergency ordinances before they could be tabled in Parliament also suggests that the government is afraid of an examination of its record during emergency rule. Clearly, it has failed in managing the Covid crisis, which has spun out of control during the period Parliament was suspended from 12 January.

Is such a revocation of the emergency even valid if it is not signed by the Agong or annulled by Parliament? Some have wondered if there is even a government in existence since 21 July, given that the emergency ordinances authorised the Perikatan Nasional-led government to run the country during the emergency period.

And what happens to all the penalty notices issued by enforcement officers between 21 July and now? The Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases)(Amendment) Ordinance 2021 allows for penalties of up to RM100,000 and seven years’ jail for flouting Covid rules.

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Given the critical constitutional issues at stake, the Speaker’s response when opposition MPs tried to table motions and call for a debate was appalling. “Sit down. Because none of you MPs want to listen to me, I only have one thing to say. I do not agree with everything you said. Let us continue,” the Speaker said. Such a disposition does not augur well for the perception of the Speaker, who must be above the partisan fray.

If anything, this entire saga tells us that Parliament should never have been suspended during what is essentially a healthcare crisis. Temporary health-related extraordinary powers could have been provided to the government with the endorsement of Parliament without having to suspend Parliament itself.

Independent observers will see the government’s bid to impose emergency rule as a cynical move to avert a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin in Parliament which could have led to the fall of his faction-ridden government.

A defeat for Mahiaddin had he tabled the emergency ordinances in Parliament today would have been a stinging rebuke for the cynical way he resorted to the suspension of Parliament and even delayed in reconvening it despite repeated reminders from the Agong.

A defeat would also have provided a stern warning for future prime ministers who might be tempted to suspend Parliament and resort to emergency rule whenever they feel their position is being threatened in the august House.

We call on MPs and the legal profession to examine our laws carefully and tighten them so that never again will Parliament be suspended.

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MPs must also review all decisions made during emergency rule, especially unusual financial outlays, including the procurement of medical supplies, to ensure they are above board.

Now that the ’emergency’ is over, we call on the government to stop messing around and get down to tackling the serious health and socioeconomic crises facing the people. The people are suffering terribly.

The mucking around must stop. No more lies. No more deception. We, the people, are watching and we are angry.

Aliran executive committee
26 July 2021

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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