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Malaysia’s parliamentary session cut short on Monday after staff in Upper House test positive for COVID-19

Malaysia’s parliamentary session cut short on Monday after staff in Upper House test positive for COVID-19

Malaysia's parliament building in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia parliamentary session was cut short on Monday (Nov 2) after employees working in the Upper House tested positive for COVID-19.

This was the first day of the parliamentary sitting which will see the budget for 2021 being tabled and voted on. 

De facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan said the decision to shorten the session was made after an emergency meeting on Monday morning with party representatives and the Ministry of Health.

A general view of the Parliament session in Kuala Lumpur, before the first day of parliament ended early after an officer in a senator's office tested postive for COVID-19, Nov 2, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Malaysia's Department of Information/Khirul Nizam Zanil)

“Following the meeting, we concluded that efforts to implement the new normal has to be done without denying the rights of Members of Parliament (MPs) to question, debate or vote here.

“Based on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) given to MPs by parliament and the agreement of all those in attendance at the meeting this morning, I would like to table a motion in accordance to Standing Order 12(1) for the session today to be concluded at 1pm and will reconvene at 10am tomorrow Nov 3,” he said.

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

In response to the minister's statement, Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin said that it was unfair to shorten the session. ”COVID-19 does not take a break between 10am to 1pm,” he said.

Mr Takiyuddin reiterated that the decision to shorten the session was made after representatives from all political parties were consulted.

“We actually should not be making a big deal of this, but we would like to inform that some Senate employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and some senators have also been suspected to have the virus. Please get the details and clarifications from your (party) representatives.

Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin waves as he arrives for a meeting at the Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 2, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Malaysia's Department of Information/Nazri Rapaai)

“I am not a medical doctor, but we have been advised by the Ministry of Health that the risk is very high in our position. Because we are in this enclosed space and the glass divider can only provide a certain amount of protection,” he said.

The minister added that the hall where parliamentry debate was taking place was sanitised by the Fire and Rescue department every morning. However, these measures do not prevent the spread of COVID-19 entirely, he said.

“The longer we are in here, the higher the risk and therefore we have suggested to shorten the session without any prejudice to any quarter,” he said.

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

Asked to clarify if this motion would apply to the entire 27 days of this session, Mr Takiyuddin clarified that Standing Order 12(1) was only limited to the day it was tabled. He said that he would table another motion on Tuesday.

Democratic Action Party's leader Lim Guan Eng also reminded the session that the motion remains “open ended” as the representatives of the parties have yet to present and discuss the matter with their respective party leaders.

“This is an unprecedented move and it involves the supremacy and the sovereignty of parliament. Please do not erode the rights of MPs to debate,” said Mr Lim.

Malaysia Minister of International Trade and Industry Mohamed Azmin Ali (right) and Minister of Defence Ismail Sabri Yaakob attend a parliament session in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 2, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Malaysia's Department of Information/Famer Roheni)

Shortly after the motion was tabled by Mr Takiyiddin, Senator Ras Adiba Radzi issued a statement indicating that her sister, who is also a special officer, has tested positive for COVID-19.

"Currently, 10 of my family members and I are awaiting our test results. We apologise for the inconvenience that has been caused by what has happened to my family," she said.

READ: Malaysia PM Muhyiddin urges all MPs to set aside political differences to support budget 2021

READ: Pakatan Harapan makes 6 suggestions for Malaysia's budget 2021

Parliament speaker Azhar Azizan Harun, who presided over the session added that should the arrangement to end early be applied until this Thursday, a separate arrangement would be discussed for what would happen after the budget is tabled.

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

As of Nov 1, Malaysia has a total of 32,505 positive cases and 249 fatalities. The number of active cases now stand at 10,036.

Source: CNA/kd

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