Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun today chided a PKR MP for citing two Federal Constitution articles on taxation and finance to question the 80-MP rule, part of the Dewan Rakyat’s measures to minimise the risk of the spread of Covid-19.
Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim had protested against the rule limiting the number of MPs in the house at any one time, saying it was a violation of their rights under the constitution.
“Stopping MPs elected by the people from attending the Dewan Rakyat is against Articles 96 and 97, which are in Part 7 of the Federal Constitution,” said Hassan.
Hassan was referring to the ruling announced by Azhar last week, that only 80 MPs would be allowed to attend each sitting during the current session: 41 MPs from the ruling bloc and 39 from the opposition.
The move which was agreed to by party whips was based on the advice of the health ministry and the National Security Council.
The rule was however suspended during the tabling of the budget last Friday which was attended by all MPs following calls from both sides. Azhar said he would not entertain similar calls this week.
Responding to Hassan, Azhar said the two articles he cited did not mention the right of MPs to attend Dewan Rakyat sittings.
Instead, he said, the articles were related to consolidated funds and the authority of the federal government over taxation.
“Where in the Federal Constitution is it mentioned that at any one time, I must listen to 222 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, when the Standing Order states the quorum as only 26?” asked Azhar.
He said the 80-MP rule was not to stop others from taking part in the debate, adding that party leaders were free to select those who could attend.
He also said the Dewan Rakyat was never fully attended, noting times when the necessary quorum could not be achieved.
“When we reach a consensus on the 80-MP rule, why does this become an issue all of a sudden?”
Urging MPs to appreciate the sacrifices of frontliners in the battle against Covid-19, he said: “Enough of this, let’s debate on the budget.”