Deputy speaker Azalina speaks out against suspension of Parliament
FMT Reporters -February 17, 2021 2:27 PM
PETALING JAYA: Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said has spoken against the continued suspension of Parliament, saying she was “bewildered” that Malaysia is unable or refuses to find ways to facilitate parliamentary sittings.
In a letter to Attorney-General Idrus Harun, Azalina also mooted the suspension of the current Cabinet and for it to be replaced with an Emergency Cabinet with limited powers until the state of emergency is lifted on Aug 1.
“Being a member of Parliament who has served for approximately 17 years now, I am bewildered as to how and why we are unable to and or refuse to employ means in the ordinance to facilitate Parliament sittings like other nations have,” she wrote.
The letter was copied to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan, and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun among others.
Azhar, incidentally, is Idrus’ brother.
Azalina said measures to facilitate sittings include reducing the quorum of MPs needed, fixing flexible sitting hours and broadcasting chamber proceedings.
“Instead of improvising so parliamentary proceedıngs can take place, the government has opted to suspend parliamentary sittings altogether.
“If that was not enough, the Attorney-General’s Chambers has now advised the government, rather restrictively I may add, that all activities of committees established in Parliament including Special Select Committees (SCs) can no longer continue even if conducted virtually.”
She said this effectively prevents MPs who are members of the SCs from investigating and scrutinising issues affecting Malaysians and publishing their findings and recommendations.
Azalina said that with the legislature’s functions “emasculated” and SCs’ activities terminated, the executive appears to have “free rein” over the affairs of the country during the emergency.
She also said what was worrying for Malaysıa’s parliamentary democracy is that any emergency proclaimed, or any ordinance promulgated under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution cannot be challenged in court.
Azalina said the situation raised several questions, including how the executive will be held accountable for decisions and whether the country is excusing ministerial responsibility because of a health crisis.
Azalina, the Pengerang MP who was also a former de facto law minister, urged Idrus to consider advising the government to suspend the existing Cabinet and replace it with a Special Emergency Cabinet with reduced powers and comprising relevant ministries.
“Concurrently, a bipartisan Special Parliamentary Committee comprising government and opposition MPs can be chaired by the Yang di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat to, among others, enforce ministerial responsibility and provide the necessary checks and balances.”