Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the decision to shorten the time for the sitting was following advice from Health Ministry officials.
The Kota Baru MP, however, assured all lawmakers that their right to debate and ask questions would not be affected following this.
“We should not be publicising this, an officer who is also a family member of a senator had tested positive and we expect there may be senators who will test positive.
“So this is a worrying development,” he said when tabling a motion under Standing Order 12 (1) to adjourn Parliament earlier for the day.
Takiyuddin explained that prior to a few days before Parliament began, several sanitisation sessions were conducted by the relevant authorities.
He said a sanitisation session was also conducted by the Fire and Rescue Department yesterday morning before Parliament began.
The minister said that several measures had been taken by Parliament to ensure the safety of all lawmakers.
“We have been advised by the Health Ministry that the risk is very high, that is the term used.
“Lawmakers are seated in closed conditions ... although we have the transparent barriers (between every MP), we don’t know how far that can curb the spread of the virus.
“But Health Ministry officials have said that the longer we are in this situation (closed, confined space), the risk gets higher.
“That is why we are bringing this matter to the august House for consideration, without any prejudice,” he said.
When pressed by lawmakers on whether the ruling would be for all 27 days of the Dewan Rakyat meeting, he explained that it was only applicable for this week.
“This will be applicable for this week, before Budget 2021 (is tabled on Friday).
“After Budget 2021, we will discuss it further with party whips,” he said.
Takiyuddin said he had an emergency meeting, chaired by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, together with all party whips to prioritise efforts to curb Covid-19 as well as the Parliament meeting to focus on Budget 2021.
He said the number of Covid-19 cases was on the rise in the third wave and as such, a few measures would be put in place by Parliament, including taking the attendance of MPs and their exit and entry into the House.
Party whip leaders will also be given instructions from time to time to fulfil the standard operating procedure (SOP) set by Parliament, he added.
Several Opposition lawmakers had questioned the government’s decision to shorten the time for the sitting.
Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) said it was disappointing that the hours were reduced, adding that it made no sense.
“I don’t think Covid-19 virus will rest after 1pm. The government should use this time to bring in more policies and laws to help people in the current scenario,” he said.
Teo Nie Ching (PH-Kulai) urged the government to consider extending the meeting from the current 27 days, seeing that the hours had been cut short.
Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) also sought clarification if Parliament proceedings would be shortened just for Monday or the entire week.
Takiyuddin said the motion he tabled was for only that day and that separate motions had to be tabled if proceedings were to be shortened on following days.
Meanwhile, asked on proposals to have the tabling of Budget 2021 conducted online given the spike in Covid-19 cases, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said it could not be done as it would be in direct violation of the Constitution and Parliament’s Standing Order.
“For example, the tabling, debate and subsequent vote for the Bill must be done inside the Dewan Rakyat.
“However, we have imposed a stricter SOP for those attending Parliament sittings,” he said.
The SOP requires MPs from Sabah to undergo quarantine, while all MPs are required to go for swab tests three days before entering Parliament.
“Each MP can only bring two officers to Parliament and both of them must undergo swab tests.
“The duration that MPs spend inside the Dewan Rakyat has also been reduced. For example today, the Parliament sitting ended at 1pm,” added Ismail Sabri.
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