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Malaysian parliament cuts short daily session hours, imposes cap on number of MPs who can be present

Malaysian parliament cuts short daily session hours, imposes cap on number of MPs who can be present

Dewan Rakyat in Kuala Lumpur. (File photo: Bernama)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian parliament on Thursday (Nov 5) announced new health protocols for the ongoing meeting, including limiting sittings to four hours per day and a cap of 80 Members of Parliament (MPs) who can be present in the Dewan Rakyat at any one time.

In a statement, speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said that the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases has required the authorities to take several steps in order to ensure that the final parliamentary session for the year is able to proceed.

He explained that a meeting was held on Wednesday, attended by the whip chiefs representing all parties. The final decisions were made based on the advice of the National Security Council and the Ministry of Health, he said.

“The first thing would be fixing the hours of the daily sessions to begin at 10am and to end at 2pm. Two more days could be added to this sitting, which would be on Dec 16 and Dec 17, if necessary.

READ: Malaysia’s budget 2021 to be expansionary in order to support people, revive economy, says Muhyiddin

READ: Commentary - What struggling Malaysians need from this Budget is a stronger safety net – and higher taxes

“The attendance of the Members of Parliament including for the tabling of Budget 2021 on Friday is limited to only 80 people at any one time, where 41 members will be from the government while 39 would be from the opposition and independent factions,” he said.

The statement said it was up to the individual political parties to determine which of their MPs would be in attendance. There are 222 MPs in total.

“For the process of bloc voting, the bell will be rung for two minutes and will be followed by a 10-minute consolidation period. The bell will then be rung again for two minutes. Only for this process, all MPs are allowed to be in the House of Parliament."

Following the announcement, Jelutong MP RSN Rayer asked the speaker to justify the allocation of seats for the lawmakers from both sides of the political divide.

"Just to be clear, we would like to know why the allocation was not an equal one like 40 for each side?" he said.

The speaker replied that a higher allocation of seats for the government was given beause it held the majority.

He added that the initial suggestion was for two MPs representing each party to be present for debates. But he had pushed for 100 MPs to be allowed in. The final decision was to accommodate 80 of them, said the speaker.

READ: Key moments of PM Muhyiddin's time in office, and what might lie ahead for Malaysian politics

The speaker's statement also said that despite the shorter daily session hours, MPs still have sufficient time to consider budget 2021.

Additionally, the statement said that question and answer sessions for Mondays and Wednesdays would be limited to one hour, from 10am to 11am. 

For Tuesdays and Thursdays, 55 minutes will be given. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there will be 5 minutes allocated to ministers' question time.

These new rules came after the parliament session which started on Nov 2 was shortened to sit for only three hours a day, after staff from the Upper House as well as a media personnel tested positive for COVID-19.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Takiyuddin Hassan. (File photo: Bernama)

De facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan had explained that he moved the motion as per section 12(1) of the Standing Order following advice from the Ministry of Health that prolonged hours in the confined spaces of the parliamentary debate hall was risky to the MPs.

Budget 2021 is set to be tabled on Friday, with the scheduled debate to end on Dec 10.

After recording 1,032 cases on Wednesday, Malaysia now has 35,425 positive cases of COVID-19. Out of this, 10,339 were active cases. To date, the country has recorded 271 fatalities.

Source: CNA/kd(aw)

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