KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will call for Parliament to reconvene “as soon as possible before 1 August”, said de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan on Friday (2 July).
The decision will be finalised in a Cabinet meeting on 7 July, he added in a statement today.
Takiyuddin’s statement follows a meeting between the King and Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun, his deputies Azalina Othman Said and Mohd Rashid Hasnon, as well as Senate president Rais Yatim and his deputy Mohamad Ali Mohamad on 29 June.
Rashid told reporters following his audience with Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah at the National Palace: “God willing, I’ll see you soon for the parliament sitting, either through a normal parliamentary sitting or through a hybrid parliament.”
Dewan Rakyat is the Lower House of Parliament, while Dewan Negara is the Upper House.
All of them were summoned by the King to discuss the reconvening of Parliament.
In a statement, Comptroller of the Royal Household, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin the same day reiterated the King’s view that Parliamentary sittings must be held as soon as possible in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines and standard operating procedures.
Earlier in a statement on 16 June, Ahmad Fadil said that the King recognises Parliament’s role as “an important platform” for elected representatives to discuss various issues of public importance, including the COVID-19 in the country.
“His Majesty is of the opinion that having a stable and solid Government that can effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic and rehabilitate the nation’s economy is imperative,” the statement read.
Allowing Parliament to reconvene will enable Members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss pressing matters such as the Government’s spending allocation for the purpose of assisting the people, especially those who are currently facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed because of it.
“After deliberating on the views of political leaders as well as those of the Independent Commission on the Emergency 2021 and experts from Government agencies, His Majesty expressed the view that Parliament sittings must be held as soon as possible,” said the Comptroller.
This is to enable MPs to debate the Emergency Ordinances and the National Recovery Plan, he said.
The Palace’s announcement came on 16 June after Al-Sultan Abdullah chaired a special meeting with the Council of Rulers on the same date.
Takiyuddin previously came under fire for stating that the King did not specify when Parliament should reconvene.
Takiyuddin in a discussion with Bicara Harakah said: “His Majesty did not specify any particular date … He said it should be held as soon as possible. So the Prime Minister can announce, for example, that Parliament will reopen in September or October.”
Takiyuddin also said that the number of people to be admitted into the Parliament physical space has to be taken into consideration when deliberating on the reopening of the House.
“You need to take into account the number of people who will be present. A closed area like the Dewan Rakyat could accommodate 222 MPs. But what about the government officers on duty, the heralds for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Secretary to the Dewan Rakyat?” He questioned.
Takiyuddin added that members of the public present outside the halls and Parliament staff must also be taken into view when considering whether to allow Parliament to reconvene at this stage.
“We have been informed that every time Parliament convenes, there are at least 1,000 people on the grounds,” he said, noting that such is why only a hybrid Parliament configuration would be feasible at this point.
“This way, we will determine who will attend the sittings as well as the number of MPs attending, among other (criteria). In tandem with Parliamentary rules, the minimum quorum needed for the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara would be 26 MPs and 10 Senators, respectively,” said Takiyuddin.
Legal issues, however, may pose barriers to even a hybrid Parliament configuration.
“The Standing Orders state that attendance by MPs must be physical, and those not in attendance physically cannot vote,” said Takiyuddin. For a hybrid Parliament to be materialised, said Takiyuddin, amendments must be made to the Standing Orders.
“So this hybrid Parliament needs to be studied and prepared for. But I wish to stress that the government remains committed to the democratic process involving Parliament.
“The Prime Minister has stated that the Government will reconvene Parliament once it is confident that standard operating procedures can be met. It is not that we do not wish to reopen Parliament, but it will be done in accordance with the new norms,” Takiyuddin said.
Parliament’s last sitting was held in December last year when Budget 2021 was passed.
The ongoing state of Emergency, said to be lifted on 1 August, was declared in mid-January this year.