Azalina queries move to stop Parliament committees’ activities

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 this prevents lawmakers from looking into issues affecting Malaysians.

The Pengerang MP also suggested that Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun consider advising for the suspension of duties of the current Cabinet and replace this with the appointment of a Special Emergency Cabinet comprising only relevant ministers 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 was unable to employ the means to facilitate Parliament sittings like those in other nations, such as by reducing the quorum of MPs, flexible hours and broadcasting chamber proceedings.

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

“If that was not enough, the Attorney General’s Chambers 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.

A copy of the letter was forwarded to the Prime Minister, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and senior Umno MPs Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Azalina, who was the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law, said the SCs played a significant role in the running of the nation as they published their own findings and that the government was expected to respond to any of their recommendations.

She said with the “Legislature’s functions emasculated” and the SCs’ activities terminated, the Executive seemed to appear to “have a free reign over the affairs of the country whilst the state of Emergency is in force”.

What was worrying for Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, said the MP of 17 years, was that any Emergency proclaimed or any ordinance promulgated under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution could not be challenged in the court of law.

The suspension of Parliament also meant that there was no means to enforce ministerial responsibility against the Cabinet and the ministers individually, she said.

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