Govt should consider virtual Parliament sitting, says Malaysian Bar

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has urged the Cabinet to consider virtual Parliamentary sittings during the Emergency period.

Its president Salim Bashir (pic) said that they could arrange for full online proceedings or to employ certain hybrid mechanisms, whereby some MPs attend physically and others attend via online participation.

Salim said that parliaments in other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom have been conducting their proceedings virtually.

"Pursuant to Article 62(1) of the Constitution, each House of Parliament is allowed to regulate its own procedure.

"Such flexibility is important during these unprecedented times that our country is facing. Therefore, Article 62(5) of the Federal Constitution ought to be given a purposive interpretation.

"This will allow MPs to log in virtually, and this can be construed as attendance for the purposes of achieving the necessary quorum and for voting," he said in a statement Friday (March 5).

Salim said Parliament is the legislative authority of the Federation, and its vital role in preserving democracy cannot be understated.

"The purpose of Parliament is not only to pass laws but also to provide checks and balances to the function of the government as well as to provide a voice to the rakyat," he said.

Salim said that pursuant to Standing Orders 90 and 99 of the Dewan Rakyat, the Speaker of the House is armed with powers to make rulings or to suspend standing orders.

"This authority can be used to allow virtual proceedings or to overcome any impediments that stand in the way of implementing virtual Parliamentary proceedings during the Emergency period.

"Even the Parliamentary Standing Order Committee should be able to meet virtually to decide on any amendments to the orders to pave the way and allow for online proceedings," he said, adding that Parliament should also consider holding a physical sitting with a restricted number of attendees that are necessary to satisfy the quorum of 26 MPs divided equally between the government and opposition parties.

He said that while Malaysia has experienced suspension of Parliament for two years during the 1969 racial riots, such a position was entirely untenable in this day and age.

"We must take into account the fact that our current Parliament is well equipped with technological tools that did not exist more than half a century ago.

"Parliament must therefore do what many workplaces are doing in the face of a pandemic - innovate expediently," he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said that Parliament would not convene during the period of the Emergency proclamation which ends on Aug 1.

He said this was because the Cabinet had advised the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah that Parliament would not be convened during the state of emergency.

He claimed that the decision not to convene Parliament was also made based on science and data, as well as the Federal Constitution.

Last month, the King decreed that Parliament can convene during the current state of emergency.

Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the King’s view was that Parliament could be convened on a date deemed appropriate by His Majesty, upon the advice of the Prime Minister.

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