Only 80 MPs allowed at a time


Reports by MARTIN CARVALHO, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM and TARRENCE TAN

BEGINNING today, the Dewan Rakyat will be limited to only 80 MPs present in the House during the proceedings, says Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

In a message read by Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, Azhar said the decision was made for the safety of the MPs and to ensure that proceedings go smoothly as the nation grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The move was agreed upon based on several measures, including discussions with the party whips and taking into consideration advice from the National Security Council and Health Ministry.

Azhar said that of the 80 MPs, 41 will be from the government bloc and 39 from the Opposition and independent side.

“The MPs chosen to attend will be determined by their respective parties. The Dewan Rakyat secretary will present special cards to the Kota Baru MP (Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan) for the government bloc while the cards for the opposition and independent MPs will be given to Datuk Johari Abdul (PH-Sungai Petani), ” said the Speaker.

There are 222 parliamentary seats. However, the Batu Sapi seat fell vacant following the death of its MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong on Oct 2. The Election Commission has fixed Nov 23 as nomination day and Dec 5 for polling for the Batu Sapi by-election.

Azhar said the MPs who are seated in the House today will record their attendance on their laptops while those who are not given the special cards will record their attendance at the various entry points in Parliament House.

He added that there will be changes in the daily proceedings, with the daily sitting shortened to 2pm beginning Monday until Dec 15.Question Time, which takes place on Monday and Wednesday, will only last an hour compared to the 90 minutes allotted previously, while it will be 55 minutes for Tuesday and Thursday.

Only one supplementary questioned is allowed to be asked and it must be as brief as possible, Azhar said.He said the Minister’s Question Time, which takes place every Tuesday and Thursday, will also be reduced to five minutes from the current 30 minutes.

He added that MPs will read their questions and the minister will give a written reply to the MPs on the same day.

Azhar said the debates for the policy stage of Budget 2021 will be held for eight days, from Monday until Thursday. The ministers’ replies for the policy stage will run for three days from Nov 23 to Nov 25, while debates for the committee stage will run for 11 days from Nov 26 till Dec 15.

Azhar had explained that if the Dewan Rakyat was to sit as usual and end at 5.30pm daily, about 89.5 hours would be allocated for all MPs to debate, including ministers’ replies.

With the new ruling, the time period for debates for Budget 2021 at both the policy and committee stage, including ministers’ replies, will now be 66 hours.

“Although there is a reduction in the number of hours to debate and get the response, the lawmakers still have enough time to weigh in (their opinions) on Budget 2021, ” he added.

Azhar also said the Parliament’s Third Meeting can be extended by another two days if needed.

He urged the MPs to adhere to the standard operating procedure set by the authorities.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the government may look into suggestions to hold a virtual Dewan Rakyat sitting following a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Although the Standing Order does not provide for a virtual sitting to be held, he said it could be done by amending the Standing Order.

He was responding to Fuziah Salleh (PH-Kuantan), who asked if a Bill should be passed to let Dewan Rakyat sittings be held virtually.

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