Covid-19: Senior minister says not possible to virtually table Budget, delay Batu Sapi poll

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob delivering his speech during a media conference in Putrajaya October 27, 2020. — Bernama pic
Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob delivering his speech during a media conference in Putrajaya October 27, 2020. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — Parliament’s Standing Orders does not allow for Budget 2021 to be tabled virtually, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.

He acknowledged that doing so would reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection in the current third wave, but said lawmakers were still required to be physically present in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Legally, I am informed that we cannot limit the conference so that it is made virtually.

“This is because we cannot vote outside Parliament, we have to be in Parliament. Australia has held virtual conferences, but it is not possible for them (the MPs) to vote... so many constraints make it difficult for the sitting.

“That is why we continue the parliamentary session as usual, but with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs),” he said in a press conference today.

On October 23, Dewan Rakyat speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun said Dewan Rakyat sittings cannot be held virtually because the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s proclamation provides that these must take place in Parliament.

In the same press conference today, Ismail also said the Batu Sapi by-election cannot be postponed as the Election Commission (EC) has already announced the polling date.

The minister said it was also not possible to prevent voters from travelling to the Sabah constituency to vote as this was their constitutional right.

However, he said the EC and Health Ministry were discussing added guidelines to minimise the risk of Covid-19 to voters.

“To block people from crossing districts and states is quite difficult,” he said.

Ismail Sabri said authorities were aware of the risks of Covid-19 infections after witnessing what occurred during the Sabah state election and were trying to find the best possible compromise.

EC previously announced that the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election will be held on December 5 following the death of incumbent Datuk Liew Vui Keong on October 2, believed to be due to a lung infection.

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