S'wak Speaker: 2022 state budget can be approved by CM, financial authority without sitting during Emergency

Asfia (left), accompanied by deputy speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala, speaking at a press conference in Kuching.

KUCHING: The 2022 state budget can be approved by the Chief Minister or state financial authority, without the sitting of the state legislative assembly during the current Emergency in Sarawak, says Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar.

The Sarawak Speaker said this was clearly stipulated in Section 11 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) (Sarawak) Ordinance 2021, which provides that any expenditure or withdrawal from the state's consolidated fund may be made with the approval of the Chief Minister or state financial authority for as long as the Emergency is in force.

"In respect of the state budget required for 2022, the need to get approval from the state legislature is immaterial," he told a press conference here on Wednesday (Aug 4).

There had been calls for the state assembly to be allowed to sit during the Emergency in order to pass the state budget for next year.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had proclaimed an Emergency for Sarawak from Aug 2 to Feb 2 next year to suspend the state election and prevent a further spread of Covid-19.

Asfia also said the state assembly was prohibited from sitting under Section 4 of the Emergency Ordinance for Sarawak, which stipulates that the state constitution's provisions relating to the state assembly's sitting have no effect during the Emergency.

He said the matter of the state assembly's sitting could not be compared to the Parliament sitting convened last week before the nationwide Emergency was lifted, as the current parliamentary term was still running whereas the state legislature's term expired on June 6.

"The abruptly disrupted sitting of the Dewan Rakyat underscores the gravity of Covid-19.

"This lends credence to Section 4 of the current Emergency Ordinance in disallowing sittings of the state legislative assembly," he added, referring to the postponement of Monday's (Aug 2) Dewan Rakyat sitting after 11 Covid-19 cases were detected in Parliament.

Asfia also said the emergency proclamation made it clear that the dissolution of the state assembly and date of the state election must be subordinated to the higher goals and interests of protecting the people's welfare and health.

However, he said the Emergency's dates of Aug 2 to Feb 2, 2022 were not "ironclad" but could be terminated earlier by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in consultation with the Sarawak Governor.

"The state legislative assembly shall be dissolved on the date the Proclamation of Emergency (Sarawak) is revoked or annulled," he added.

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