KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The Speaker of Parliament or his deputies should invoke the relevant standing orders to allow a motion on the annulment of Emergency Ordinances to be tabled and debated accordingly and promptly, said several civil society groups.
Their statement came after the National Palace earlier today released a statement saying that the King did not assent to the government’s purported revocation of the said ordinances.
Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement today that de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan’s announcement in Parliament on Tuesday regarding the matter is “inaccurate” and has caused confusion among Members of Parliament (MPs).
“Because the ordinances have been revoked, the issue of annulment is no longer relevant,” the minister said during the first day of the five-day special Parliament sitting on Monday, citing Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.
The six emergency ordinances referred to by Takiyuddin were introduced at the onset of the Emergency period on 12 January. The Emergency is slated to end on 1 August.
Ahmad Fadil today, however, said: “Article 150(2B), read together with Article 150(3), of the Federal Constitution clearly stipulates that the power to enact and revoke Emergency Ordinances is vested within the King’s authority.”
In a joint statement on Thursday (29 July), the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0), ENGAGE, Bait Al-Amanah, Institute for Political Reform and Democracy (REFORM), Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), and Persatuan Pengundi Muda (UNDI18) said that Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun’s earlier ruling on de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan to explain the matter is “now invalid by circumstance”.
“Regardless of any change to the Government and any of its ministers and senior officials, the annulment of EOs must be made the first item of the agenda from now on,” the groups said.
Similar to what Semporna Member of Parliament (MP) Shafie Apdal had raised in Parliament today, the groups stressed that the annulment is crucial to ensure that the ordinances “will not remain in force” until 1 February next year.
This is because according to Article 150(7) of the Federal Constitution, any ordinances promulgated during the Emergency period may still be in effect for a period of six months from the date on which the Emergency period is lifted.
Another reason why the motion on annulling the Emergency Ordinances must be tabled, said the groups, is that the Emergency Proclamation itself and the ordinances were made when Parliament was not in session.
This is particularly given the context that the Emergency Ordinances carry disproportionately heavy penalties such as six years’ jail and a fine of RM 500,000 for a fake-news-related offence.
“The Speaker, or his deputies who preside the meeting, must not taint the august House with more partisan and unprofessional rulings. The Speaker’s conduct in these four days has marked a phenomenally low point even by the diminished standards of the House since last July,” said the groups.
Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo on Thursday brought up in Parliament the motion he filed on Tuesday to refer Takiyuddin and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to the Rights and Privileges Committee over the revocation announcement.
The civil society groups in their statement today indicated their support for Gobind’s proposed motion.
In the Palace’s statement today, it was said that the King was saddened by the failure of the government to table and debate in Parliament a motion to void all Emergency Ordinances, contrary to what was agreed upon and approved in a virtual audience with Takiyuddin and Attorney-General Idrus Harun on 24 July.
This, in addition to the contradictory and misleading statements in Parliament regarding the matter, has not only failed to “respect the principle of the rule of law”, but has also defied the constitutionally enshrined functions and powers of the King, said Ahmad Fadil.
“His Majesty is aware of the necessity to act upon the advice of the Cabinet, as stated in Article 40(1) of the Federal Constitution.
“However, His Majesty is also of the opinion that as the head of state, he has the duty to offer advice to the government or any relevant entity in the event that it engages in any unconstitutional action,” he added.
Deputy Speaker Rashid Hasnon rocked Parliament after saying that the palace’s remarks were “just a media statement”.
Parliament was adjourned for 15 minutes following the uproar.
Opposition leaders such as Anwar Ibrahim lambasted the Deputy Speaker, urging him to not make a mockery of the King’s statement.
Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo brought up the motion he filed on Tuesday to refer Takiyuddin and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to the Rights and Privileges Committee over the revocation announcement.
Simpang Renggam MP Dr Maszlee Malik that if Parliament fails to compel Takiyuddin and Muhyiddin to respond to the palace’s statement, it will leave a “black mark” in Malaysia’s history and will set a worrying precedent for future governments.
Earlier, Muar MP Syed Saddiq similarly warned the House of such a precedent.
“When a Prime Minister – in 10 or 20 years from now – is on the verge on losing power, he will approach the King asking for an Emergency Proclamation,” he said.
Syed Saddiq raised the issue of what would then take place if the King and the Council of Malay Rulers turn down such a request, given the provisions of Article 40(1) of the Federal Constitution.
“The function of the Malay Rulers is sidelined. Parliament is rendered non-functional,” he said.
Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun interjected at that point, stating that Syed Saddiq’s speech is “not a point of order”.
“This is going into the merit, sorry,” he said, before calling on other MPs to make their points.
After the earlier 15-minute adjournment at 12.30pm, Rashid told the House that the sitting will be adjourned until 2.30pm.
Parliament later resumed at 3.30pm as stated by Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman after Rashid’s announcement.
The sitting was then adjourned again to 5.15pm, with Rashid citing the discovery of two new COVID-19 cases on Parliament grounds after testing was conducted on MPs and Parliament staff.
Citing Standing Order 12(2), Rashid then said that the Parliamentary sitting will resume on Monday (2 August).
The session on Thursday is the fourth day in a line-up of a special Parliamentary sitting, which will end on Monday.
Previously, Parliament was last in session in December last year. Sittings were then suspended for the bulk of the Emergency period.