Five-day Parliament sitting makes no sense, say MPs

PETALING JAYA: While happy that Parliament is finally being reconvened, elected representatives are questioning why Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is only going for a five-day sitting.

In a statement today, the Prime Minister’s Office said Muhyiddin will advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to call for a Dewan Rakyat sitting from July 26 to 29 and on Aug 2. Meanwhile, the Dewan Negara will sit for three days from Aug 3 to 5. The Dewan Rakyat’s last sitting was on Dec 17.

Speaking to FMT, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said five days was simply not enough to debate the various issues since then – key among them the Emergency, which was announced on Jan 11, and the government’s Covid-19 related expenditure.

“There are so many questions that have to be answered, they just can’t brush us aside with five days of Parliament. It’s definitely not enough time,” said the PKR lawmaker.

“This is not parliamentary democracy!”

Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah and Klang MP Charles Santiago all say that five days is too little time for MPs to do anything effective.

Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan also said five days was simply not enough, saying that a minimum of 20 days was needed to debate the various issues related to Covid-19 and the 12th Malaysia Plan.

“The Emergency should also be discussed and not just laid on the table,” said the Umno lawmaker in a post on Twitter.

The PMO’s statement said that based on Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution, emergency proclamations and ordinances will be laid before both houses of Parliament.

The statement also said that the purpose of the sitting was to explain the national recovery plan to MPs and to amend all relevant legislation and rules to allow for Parliament’s proceedings to be held in a hybrid manner.

“If the government thinks that it is just going to discuss hybrid sittings and one or two other issues, I don’t think this (sitting) is going to be very effective,” Klang MP Charles Santiago told FMT.

“We need to have a full Parliament sitting to discuss the pandemic, the various expenditures and policies, and all the other laws that have been passed during this time.

“Five days makes no sense to me,” said the DAP lawmaker, who also proposed the establishment of new parliamentary select committees to provide further scrutiny.

Bakri MP Yeo Bee Yin said that based on the PMO’s statement, it seemed that there would likely be no debates or votes on issues related to Covid-19.

“Are the MPs only going to Parliament to listen to one-way addresses … and debate and vote only on the issue of the hybrid Parliament?” asked the DAP lawmaker in a post on Facebook.

“I hope this is not PN’s (Perikatan Nasional) creative use of words to avoid meaningful discussions on Covid-19 issues in Parliament,” she said, calling upon the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to clarify the matter.

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said that while he welcomed the sitting, he was concerned there was not enough time to discuss key pending issues.

“Five days is too short a session to properly debate and discuss everything that has happened since the Emergency was announced on Jan 11,” the PKR communications director told FMT.

“The fact that they emphasised that the Proclamation and Ordinances ‘shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament’ may mean they only intend to literally table it without allowing full debate and voting.

“In this case, Parliament becomes a rubber stamp for the Executive and fails to fully realise the meaning of the message by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Malay Rulers on June 16.”

Subang MP Wong Chen echoed a similar concern, saying a sitting of at least 15 days was needed to debate and discuss issues related to the government’s spending and financial policies during the Emergency.

These included the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawals, debt ceiling, and unbudgeted mega projects such as the 5G project.

“My immediate reaction is: (five days) is way too little time. Five days for 220 MPs including ministers to debate and reply to these very important issues? Come on, we will need at least 15 days!”

“Our duties as MPs are to debate laws, policies and also to monitor government spending. The government needs to have an additional fiscal session to explain its spendings and financial policies during the Emergency.”

FMT

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