‘Virtual meet not as fruitful’

Critical time: Suhaizan (left) and Zulkefly say that reopening of the state assembly is long overdue.

JOHOR BARU: A state assembly can be held within 21 days after the Mentri Besar submits a letter to the Ruler advising him to allow for the assembly to be held, says Johor Speaker Suhaizan Kayat.

He said the assembly could even be called more quickly due to its urgency, and a letter to such effect should be addressed to him personally for a decision under Rule 7 (2) of the Standing Orders.

“We have not received any such request from Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad (to hold the assembly). However, based on the recent call by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Rulers, I think the state assembly can be held during the Emergency.

“We do not need to wait until the Emergency is over and only have our session in September or October, ” he said.

Suhaizan said that the last time the Johor state assembly was held was in December last year.

“Usually, we have four sessions in a year totalling about 25 days. It would be good for Johor to have its assembly soon to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and issues affecting the people, and how the state can help them, ” he said, adding the last meeting was done virtually last month.

Suhaizan said that the virtual session was only for about three hours.

But if a state assembly was called, the state’s 56 representatives would be able to raise more issues, he added.

Asked if a virtual state assembly could be held in Johor, he said that was not possible at the moment as a place that has been gazetted as the state assembly building is needed to hold the assembly.

He added that personally, he would prefer for a physical state assembly to be held with the necessary standard operating procedure in place at the current state assembly building as its hall was spacious and could easily allow for physical distancing.

Meanwhile, Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim said that Parliament should reconvene as soon as possible to avoid a constitutional crisis.

He said under the law, the power to call for a parliamentary session was in the hands of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 55(1) of the Federal Constitution.

This is also found under Sections 2(1) and 14(1) (b) of the Emergency Ordinance and under Rule 11(1) of the Dewan Rakyat’s Standing Orders.

He called on the Federal Government and Dewan Rakyat Speaker to allow Parliament to reconvene.

In Seremban, Speaker Datuk Zulkefly Mohamad Omar said the state assembly would be held as soon as possible following the advice of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers.

He added this was important to allow assemblymen to discuss and debate issues, particularly efforts taken by the state administration to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last state assembly session was held in December last year.

“Equally important is for all assemblymen to know how the rakyat’s money has been spent in recent months.

“The reopening of the state assembly is long overdue and we hope to do it soonest, ” he said.

However, Zulkefly hinted that the state legislative assembly might only reopen after Parliament reconvened.

“We are targeting August when the Emergency is supposed to end. But let’s see how it goes, ” he added.

He said it could take weeks for the assembly to be held after notices are sent out to the state assemblymen.

“It can take some time as after we get their replies on the questions they would like to ask, we will have to discuss which questions would be answered orally and which would be given written replies, ” he added.

He said the reopening of the legislative assembly was also important as assemblymen would be able to ask questions on the Covid-19 immunisation plan in the state, which has seen a surge in cases in recent days.

“This is a critical time and it is only fair that the legislative assembly is reconvened so that every assemblyman will be in the know of developments in the state, especially with regards to Covid-19, ” he added.

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