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, the MPs, meet to discuss the public grievances and concerns.
So, the closure of Parliament for a long period and the all-too-brief sessions when the august house 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 on July 26 was much awaited by MPs and the people. The Parliament was finally convened after much pressure from politicians, civil society groups and even the Agong.
But what a letdown it was. The Emergency Ordinances (EO)and its proclamation were not tabled for discussion and voting in the august house.
Public disappointment did not end there. The session was abruptly adjourned on July 29 after the Agong rebuked the Perikatan Nasional Government over its purported backdated “revocation” of the EO.
As if this was not enough, we are now told that today’s sitting has been deferred indefinitely. The reason given is spurious; several Parliament workers have been tested positive for COVID-19.
It is surely more than a medical irony that the Parliament was allowed to sit on July 26, when the percentage of positive cases there was 2.8%, but not allowed to do so now when the rate is only 0.9%.
Why not virtual or hybrid meeting?
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 Tan Sri 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.
By : ALIRAN