Azalina questions rationale for not allowing Parliamentary committees to work during Emergency

PETALING JAYA: Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pic) has questioned the rationale for not allowing Parliament's committees, including the Special Select Committees, to conduct their activities as it prevents lawmakers from looking into issues affecting Malaysians.

The Pengerang MP has also suggested to Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to consider advising the suspension of duties of the current Cabinet and replace it with the appointment of a Special Emergency Cabinet which consists of relevant ministers only throughout the Emergency period.

In a letter dated Feb 17 addressed to Idrus, which was also posted on her Twitter account, Azalina said she was "bewildered" as to how and why the government is unable to employ means to facilitate Parliament sittings like other nations, such as by reducing the quorum of MPs present, fixing flexible sitting hours and broadcasting chamber proceedings.

"Instead of improvising so that parliamentary proceedings can take place, the government has opted to suspend Parliamentary sittings altogether.

"If that was not enough, the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) has now advised the government, rather restrictively if I may add, that all activities of the Committees established in Parliament, including the Special Select Committees (SC) can no longer continue even if conducted virtually.

"The Solicitor General II's opinion effectively prevents MPs who are members of the SCs from investigating specific issues in detail or performing any specific scrutiny role.

"As such, MPs who are members of SCs like myself are unable to officially engage with bureaucrats and/or technical experts on issues affecting Malaysians in general," said Azalina in the letter.

The letter was also copied to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Azalina, who was the former minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of law, also said the SCs play a significant role in the running of the nation as it publishes its own findings in a report and the government is expected to respond to any recommendations that are made.

Azalina, who has been an MP for 17 years, said with the "Legislature's functions emasculated" and the SCs' activities terminated, the Executive seems to appear to "have a free reign over the affairs of the country whilst the state of Emergency is in force."

She also said what was worrying for Malaysia's Parliamentary democracy is that any Emergency proclaimed, or any ordinance promulgated under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution cannot be challenged in a court of law.

Azalina said the suspension of Parliament also means that there is no means to enforce ministerial responsibility against the Cabinet and the Ministers individually.

"Ordinarily, responsibilities of Cabinet and Ministers can be enforced through Parliamentary means such as the Special Chambers and Minister's Question Time but this is no longer the case," she said.

Azalina questioned how the Executive would be held accountable for their decisions if Parliament was unable to exercise its "main Constitutional function".

"What is the rationale for not allowing the SCs to continue their activities?

"Why are measures not taken to enable Parliament to have sittings like in other countries?

"How can there be a full Cabinet functioning if there are no means of enforcing ministerial responsibility?

"Why is there no Special Emergency Cabinet? Are we excusing ministerial responsibility because of a health crisis?" she asked.

Azalina said the Special Emergency Cabinet will allow it to function with limited powers until the Emergency is lifted.

Concurrently, a bipartisan special parliamentary committee, comprising of government and Opposition MPs can be chaired by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to, among others, enforce ministerial responsibility and provide the necessary "checks and balances," she said.

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