Malaysian parliament speaker, senate president propose hybrid sitting in late August or early September

Malaysian parliament speaker, senate president propose hybrid sitting in late August or early September

Malaysia Parliament building
A statue of Malaysia's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman is pictured in front of the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

KUALA LUMPUR: A hybrid parliament meeting could be held at the end of August or the first week of September, said the heads of Malaysia's Upper and Lower Houses. 

In a statement on Friday (Jun 25), Senate President Rais Yatim and House of Representatives Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said a special steering committee set up by the parliament office has looked into the technologies and methodologies required for hybrid proceedings. 

“In general, a hybrid meeting will involve the physical presence of at least 26 Members of Parliament (MPs) to fulfill the quorum requirements in the House of Representatives and 10 senators in the Senate,” the statement read. 

“The rest have the option of attending in person (based on meeting requirements set by the National Security Council or Health Ministry at the time of the meeting) or online,” it added.

While the committee is committed to ensuring that the hybrid meetings are ready to be held as soon as possible, both leaders said preparations are needed in terms of legislation, management, technical capabilities and others. 

Should all legal issues be ironed out by the end of July, a special parliament meeting could be held in early August to approve the measures of a hybrid parliament meeting, the statement read. 

Amendments to the Standing Orders would be among the issues to be discussed in this special meeting. 

Trial runs and training for parliament staff, MPs and senators would follow. 

“It is expected that the hybrid parliament meeting could be held around the end of August or the first week of September 2021 at the latest," the statement read. 

Malaysia Budget
Malaysia's Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz, standing left, delivers the 2021 budget speech at parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, on Nov 6, 2020. (Photo: AP)

Federal parliamentary sessions and state legislative assemblies have not sat since King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah declared a state of emergency on Jan 12 to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

The state of emergency was scheduled to last until Aug 1 or earlier depending on the state of coronavirus infections. 

The suspension of parliament was seen as a move that helped prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin avoid an immediate challenge to his razor-thin majority in the august house. 

Opposition leaders have pleaded with the king against extending the state of emergency and called for parliament to reconvene. 

READ: Malaysian government acknowledges king's views, says PMO after palace calls for parliament to reconvene

On Jun 16, Istana Negara issued a statement for parliamentary sittings to reconvene as soon as possible, after the king chaired a special rulers' conference.

On the same day, the Malay rulers also released a statement saying there was no need to extend the state of emergency beyond Aug 1. The rulers were also of the opinion that legislative assemblies in their respective states should also convene as soon as possible.

Some states are moving towards reconvening their respective legislatures soon. In contrast, the federal government has earlier indicated that parliament could reconvene in September or October this year, during the third phase of a national recovery plan. 

READ: Johor sultan gives consent to reconvene state assembly on Aug 12

Last weekend, the prime minister said a committee comprising government and opposition representatives has been formed to look into important aspects before parliament is reconvened. 

He said that the committee will consider whether the sitting would be a hybrid or a physical parliamentary sitting. 

Adding that the government had to look into all matters to avoid problems after the implementation, Mr Muhyiddin stressed that he had no intention to delay the reconvening of parliament.

KING MUST ACT ON THE ADVICE OF CABINET: ATTORNEY-GENERAL 

In a separate statement on Friday, Attorney-General Idrus Harun said the king has to act on the advice of the Cabinet in calling for the parliament to reconvene. 

The Standing Orders of both Houses stipulated that it is the prime minister or deputy prime minister who should decide on the dates to convene parliament, at least 28 days prior to the sitting, he said. 

Mr Idrus said the king's role as a constitutional monarch, who acts upon the advice of the Cabinet as provided under Article 43 of the Constitution, does not change when the country is under the state of emergency. 

He added that while Article 55(1) of the Constitution bestowed the power to call for parliament to reconvene on the king, the provision has no effect under the emergency ordinances when the state of emergency is in force.  

"Paragraph 14(1)(b) of the Emergency Ordinance provides the power to the king to call for parliament on a date 'deemed suitable by the king'. 

"In accordance with the king's position as the constitutional monarch, exercising his power to call for parliament to reconvene is still subject to the advice of the Cabinet or a minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet," he said, adding that the king has to accept and act based on the advice as stipulated in the Constitution.  

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Source: CNA/Bernama/aw

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