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Malaysian opposition presses law minister for explanation on revoking COVID-19 emergency laws

Malaysian opposition presses law minister for explanation on revoking COVID-19 emergency laws

View of a special session of the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Jul 26, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Malaysia's Department of Information/Handout)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's opposition lawmakers on Tuesday (Jul 27) pressed law minister Takiyuddin Hassan for an explanation behind the government's decision to revoke emergency ordinances aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The morning parliamentary session was slated for health minister Adham Baba to brief the Lower House on the management of the pandemic. 

However, Puchong Member of Parliament (MP) Gobind Singh Deo, who is also the deputy chairman of the Democratic Action Party, raised a point of order regarding revoking of the ordinances, following the minister's announcement on Monday that the months-long state of emergency will not be extended beyond Aug 1.

In addition, it was announced that the six emergency ordinances introduced during the emergency period, which began on Jan 12, had been revoked and annulled by the government on Jul 21, after a Cabinet meeting on the same day. 

Mr Gobind urged the minister in the prime minister’s department for law and parliament to explain the decision further, noting that the power to revoke the ordinances lay with the king.

READ: Malaysian parliament meets for first time this year, MPs to seek clarifications on COVID-19 response

“We want to know what happened on Jul 21. Did the king consent to it? Did it follow procedures written in the Federal Constitution?”

“This is a very important matter, and I ask that this be answered, because what we have today, and for the next two, three days are explanations on the ordinances made via the Emergency Proclamation, which have ostensibly been revoked and cancelled. But there is no list (of what has been revoked),” Mr Gobind said.

Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman agreed with the Puchong MP, but she noted that she had been informed by Speaker of the Lower House Azhar Azizan Harun that Mr Takiyuddin would provide answers regarding this issue on Aug 2.

Other opposition MPs raised questions on issues such as prosecutions and compounds issued under the ordinances, although these emergency laws have already been revoked.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who took the floor after the health minister’s briefing, said it appeared that the law minister could not answer the opposition' queries about the ordinances’ revocation.

“Now, when the minister announced (that the ordinances have been cancelled), we want to know whether this was presented to His Majesty and received consent? Even that the speaker cannot allow to be answered.”

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament. (File photo: Bernama)

“Nevermind the details, I agree with the speaker, they can be discussed on Monday.

“But we want to know, substantively, this cannot be delayed, as it causes these five days of discussion to be in the wrong, as they (the ordinances) were cancelled on Jul 21,” the Port Dickson MP said.  

Mr Anwar stated that that the speaker should not use his position to protect ministers from misleading the house.

READ: Malaysia expects most states to enter final phase of COVID-19 recovery plan as early as October, says PM Muhyiddin

The five-day special parliamentary meeting, which kicked off on Monday, was to pave the way for an eventual hybrid parliament sitting. 

It is the first time that lawmakers are gathering in Dewan Rakyat after a state of emergency was declared in January. 

According to the order paper, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and other ministers will brief the parliamentarians on the government's COVID-19 response and recovery plans. 

Following the briefings, members of parliament can seek clarifications and give their views, ending with the ministers answering the issues raised by them. 

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (C) is facing bankruptcy for allegedly failing to pay more than $400 million in taxes AFP/Mohd RASFAN

Former prime minister Najib Razak commented later on his Facebook page that a question on whether the revocations had received royal consent should not take six days to answer. 

“If he (Mr Takiyuddin) were to answer on Monday that the king actually never gave his consent to revoke the ordinances before the due date, it is no matter. 

“Because (this) Sunday is the emergency’s last day, and Monday is the last day of this special parliament session,” Mr Najib noted. 

As such, there would be no need and no more time to debate and vote on the emergency ordinances, he said.

“Have to wait till parliament sits in September. The Perikatan Nasional government is also safe until September," he added.

In his parliamentary briefing, Mr Adham said that the government was taking a comprehensive approach to protect lives and ensure economic recovery. 

Some measures included setting up low-risk COVID-19 quarantine and treatment centres. He said that nationwide occupancy at these low-risk centres was at 61 per cent on Monday. 

Currently, the health ministry has provided 29,835 beds in 132 low-risk centres throughout the country, he said.

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Source: CNA/vt

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