Thursday, August 5, 2021

Yes, Parliament should meet but no need to rush

It is precisely because Parliament has not met for so long that when it reconvenes, it should be able to carry its intended functions in an orderly and systematic manner.

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That Parliament will reconvene soon is a foregone conclusion. The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the Conference of Rulers have clearly said that they want the legislatures, including the Dewan Rakyat, to meet as soon as possible.

The members of the royalty did not spell out any time frame. So, now the question is what constitutes “as soon as possible”?

Under Standing Order 11(2) of the Dewan Rakyat, a 28-day notice must be given for the House to reconvene. But this can be set aside under Standing Order 9(2)(a) in cases of urgency, as may be determined by the speaker, and in that event “the longest notice possible shall be given”.

On July 23, 2014, the Dewan Rakyat met after a five-day notice to discuss the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine. In other words, there have been precedents for shorter notices of meetings and this is provided for under the law.

The question is, is there an emergency that warrants such a rushed meeting? As the name suggests, emergency sessions ought to be held only for emergencies. Like to condemn the downing of our national flag carrier, to pass urgent financial rescue packages following a disaster or when the country is under the threat of war.

I do not see any justifications for hastily reconvening a rushed meeting of our federal legislature. Some would argue that the Covid-19 pandemic is good enough reason for Parliament to meet urgently. But many forget that the legislature is a place where laws are passed, not a platform for political posturing, although the latter happens a lot in the hallowed chambers.

It is precisely because Parliament has not met for so long that when it reconvenes, it should be able to carry its intended functions in an orderly and systematic manner.

For example, we know that MPs pose questions daily to the ministers when Parliament is in session. That being the case, lawmakers should be given time to submit the questions and the respective ministries should be given ample time to come up with quality replies especially those related to Covid-19. Rushing through bureaucrats will only result in half-baked answers.

The same applies for bills that are to be tabled in Parliament and other legislative affairs. They must be properly thought through and not rushed for the sake of an early Parliament reopening. Let’s not sully the August House for the sake of political expediency.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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