Failure to adopt hybrid parliament a missed opportunity, says Malaysian Bar

PETALING JAYA: The failure to adopt a hybrid parliament system in the recent special sitting is a missed opportunity, says the Malaysian Bar.

Malaysian Bar president AG Kalidas said this could result in more postponements of future sittings due to Covid-19.

He was referring to the announcement on July 31 that the final day of the Dewan Rakyat special sitting on Monday (Aug 2) had been postponed.

"The Malaysian Bar is deeply disappointed by the recent news that the sitting of the Dewan Rakyat on Aug 2 has been postponed indefinitely due to a number of Covid-19 cases detected recently in Parliament on 29 July 2021," he said in a statement on Sunday (Aug 1).

"While the Malaysian Bar is cognisant of the perils of Covid-19, a question that has to be asked is why hybrid parliamentary sittings were not agreed to and voted on.

"The Speaker had stated on July 25 – just one day before Parliament was scheduled to sit – that the proposal to conduct a hybrid session had been deferred, and that this matter would not be discussed during the special sitting.

"Pursuant to this decision, there was no limit placed on the number of MPs allowed and all elected representatives – even those who had not been vaccinated – were permitted to attend," said Kalidas.

"Parliament could have employed hybrid mechanisms and appropriate standard operating procedures early on to ensure the health of all those present during the sittings, as well as support staff.

"Such alternative arrangements are important during a time when the number of Covid-19 cases in our country has been rising exponentially.

"Our current parliament is well-equipped with the requisite technological tools to innovate and adapt to the current circumstances.

"The Malaysian Bar considers the deferment of the discussion on hybrid sittings of Parliament as a missed opportunity.

"The necessity for such an implementation ... should have been a priority during a global pandemic.

"This is especially so when there are matters of significant national importance that need to be deliberated upon without further delay. The rakyat are bearing the brunt of the social dislocation and economic disruption caused by the pandemic.

"The Malaysian Bar therefore calls on Parliament to convene without any further disruption or delay with strict SOP in place.

"It should amend its standing orders to authorise hybrid Parliamentary sittings and thereafter immediately proceed with such a session.

"Good governance must prevail during these unprecedented times in order to avert a constitutional crisis, where the only ones who will suffer are the people of Malaysia," read the statement.

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