Sunday, February 28, 2021

Deputy speaker rejects call for parliamentary session on emergency

She says it is unlikely that the Agong will call for a parliamentary sitting or cancel the emergency.

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Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said has rejected a proposal by Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan that a special parliamentary sitting be convened over the proclamation of emergency.

In a letter dated yesterday, the Pontian MP had sought the cooperation of Umno and Barisan Nasional MPs to submit an agreement for the implementation of Article 150 (3) of the Federal Constitution to hold a parliamentary session as soon as possible regarding the emergency proclamation. He also asked them to reply before 12.30pm today.

Azalina, whose reply to Ahmad went viral on social media, said that as deputy speaker, she was among those who most prioritised and held firm to the principles of parliamentary democracy.

However, she said there were legitimate legal issues that needed to be considered in depth before she could give her consent.

“More so because the issue touches on the power and discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under the Federal Constitution,” she said.

She said she had taken note of several previous court rulings that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decision to proclaim an emergency could not be challenged as it is provided for under Article 150 (8) of the Federal Constitution.

Azalina said although the proclamation could not be challenged, alternatives included a suggestion to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for a special bipartisan committee to be formed to advise His Majesty on matters pertaining to the people’s rights and freedom under the Federal Constitution.

She also said the agreement to form the Perikatan Nasional Presidential Council last year could be used by Umno to channel input, including any objections regarding government policies during the movement control order (MCO) 2.0 and emergency.

“All Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara members from Umno who are also members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Malaysia (APPGM) and Special Select Committees (JPK), can still play active roles so that APPGM and JPK activities can still be actively carried out and continued.

“This is because on Jan 12, the Dewan Rakyat speaker (Azhar Harun) announced that all activities of any caucus, APPGM or JPK that had been established can still continue.

“Any grouses and grievances of the people in their parliamentary constituencies can be brought to the attention of Umno ministers in the Cabinet meeting. This is because the Umno MPs still receive allocations from the government and have the freedom to travel interstate to their respective constituencies,” she said.

She also requested that Umno representatives be appointed soon to the independent special committee on the emergency to be formed as decreed by the King.

Azalina, who is also the MP for Pengerang, said other countries which had declared emergencies to curb the spread of Covid-19 had prepared earlier, including by amending the rules of the meeting to allow for their Parliament sitting to be held online.

“This was not done in Malaysia in our previous session,” she said.

She added that Article 14(1) of the ordinance that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong proclaimed provided that Parliament could only be convened at a time deemed fit by the king.

“As such, I feel that the possibility of His Majesty calling for a parliamentary sitting in the near future or cancelling the emergency are very slim,” she said.

“Based on these reasons, I respectfully reject and disagree with the application for consent on the issue as requested by to support the MP for Pontian.”

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