Friday, January 21, 2022

Infected or not, we’ll ensure every MP gets to vote, speaker assures

Azhar Harun says arrangements will be made even if an MP falls critically ill with Covid-19.

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Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun has given his assurance that MPs who must undergo quarantine or who test positive for Covid-19 will still be allowed to participate in the confidence vote next month.

“The Parliament will do its best to facilitate every MP to cast their vote just like it was during the budget session,” Azhar told MalaysiaNow, allaying concerns that MPs might miss the critical vote if they test positive for the virus.

The government has set Sept 7 for the confidence vote in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, following the withdrawal of support announced by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said to have been endorsed by some 14 MPs from the party.

In December last year, opposition MPs protested when Azhar allowed three MPs, including one from the opposition, to be present in the House under strict SOPs approved by the health director-general.

Ministers Adham Baba and M Saravanan, and PKR’s P Prabakaran, who were forced to undergo quarantine due to close contact with positive cases, had turned up in Parliament wearing personal protective equipment to vote for one of the ministerial budget bills.

Asked how MPs would be able to attend if they fall within the more critical categories of illness requiring hospitalisation, Azhar cited as precedent a 2010 apex court judgment involving then-Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin.

“A decision from the floor of the Dewan would be indicative of support or the lack of support.

“If, God forbid, an MP is in critical condition or not allowable to come to the Dewan to vote, he or she may indicate support by ‘extraneous means’ as decided by the Federal Court in Nizar’s case, and that kind of show of support or the lack of it may be taken into consideration by all relevant parties,” he said.

In the judgment he referred to, the Federal Court had dismissed a suit by Nizar after he was toppled as menteri besar through defections, 11 months after the Pakatan Rakyat coalition wrested control of the state in the 2008 election.

Nizar lost his suit against Zambry Abdul Kadir who was installed as menteri besar based on statutory declarations submitted to the palace showing that the latter enjoyed support from a majority of assemblymen.

Meanwhile, it is understood that a proposal to conduct parliamentary sittings both virtually and physically was not followed through with despite all systems being in place for a hybrid session.

In June, Azhar told MalaysiaNow that the implementation of hybrid proceedings would take place at the level of the House Committee and the Rules Committee, comprising MPs from both the government and the opposition.

“It’s just not my decision, I cannot just snap my fingers and expect it to be done. I can only bring it to the committee but the members, the MPs, have to discuss,” he had said, adding that any proposal such as for hybrid parliamentary sittings must be brought to these two committees for approval.

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