KUALA LUMPUR: Civil society groups focusing on democratic and institutional reforms lauded Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s proposal to the government yesterday on reconvening parliament.
Seed Community for a Professional Parliament said in a statement today that the current global health crisis should not be used as an excuse to suspend Parliament, thus crippling Malaysia’s democratic system.
“The exigencies of responding to a global health pandemic are never reason enough to cripple the structures of accountable governance that are the bedrock of our constitutional democracy.
“As Azalina succinctly lays out, measures can be put in place to address or mitigate risks, and there are international examples from which to learn.
“Legislatures across the globe have adapted to new ways of working to continue oversight of their government’s Covid-19 response.
“Although these new measures remain works in progress, they tell us that even in these times of crisis, parliaments can and do balance the need to keep democracy functioning with the need to keep people safe,” the statement read.
The endorsing groups under the Seed Community include the think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), Bait Al-Amanah, Bersih 2.0, Engage, Reform and Pusat Komas.
Yesterday, Azalina listed out seven standard operating procedures (SOP) for the government to adopt during the pandemic so all members of both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara could perform their respective duties.
Among others, Azalina had proposed for an ordinance to be promulgated under the current state of emergency to stop motions of no confidence from being heard in the parliament to protect the incumbent government and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
She also mooted an idea for a unity government during the pandemic, calling it an Interim Emergency Government, which will consist of leaders from all political divides, adding that this will restore public confidence in the current government.
Echoing one of Azalina’s suggestions, the Seed Community also said that Malaysia could take the UK Parliament’s virtual sittings as an example including methods to amend the Standing Orders if and where deemed necessary.
“As the burden of Covid-19 wears down this nation, it is heartening to see Azalina rise above and reach across our system of binary, winner-takes-all politics, and propose interim measures to ensure our elected representatives are partners in this fight.
“We wholeheartedly endorse her call for additional financial support, cross-party collaboration and data sharing for/with all MPs.
“It is time to unlock Parliament and reinstate its oversight role. It is time for all parties to leave their partisan baggage at the door, engage collaboratively and in good faith to overcome the most serious public health crisis this country has ever faced.”