Deputy Speaker refuses Parliamentary sitting to discuss Emergency, but says Malaysia not following global convention

Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman (centre) is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman (centre) is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has today refused a special Parliamentary sitting to discuss the state of Emergency as requested by her party’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.

She said there are no provisions in the Constitution that allow anyone to challenge the Emergency Ordinance which was decreed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong last week as written in Article 150(8) of the Federal Constitution.

Instead, she suggested other actions be taken by her fellow Umno MPs that can be brought to the Agong’s attention.

“I would suggest a special bipartisan committee to advice the Agong on matters pertaining to the constitution and the people’s freedom of rights. It can consist of members of the Dewan Rakyat or the State Legislative Assemblies.

“The agreement to form the Perikatan Nasional Presidential Council last year can also be used as a mechanism for Umno to channel its input, recommendations and objections regarding government policies during the Emergency or movement control order 2.0 period,” said Azalina in a statement.

Azalina however pointed out that there are only two other Commonwealth countries with a similar Emergency Ordinance like Malaysia in their Constitution: India and Pakistan.

“From what I gather they have not used this Ordinance to call an Emergency in their countries to combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” she stressed.

In addition to that, Azalina also said her research found that in other countries that have declared a state of Emergency, the Parliamentary sessions still continue as usual.

The MP for Pengerang said these nations prepared for an eventual emergency declaration by amending the rules of the meeting to allow for an online or virtual session to take place but it was not done in Malaysia during the previous session.

“It must be stressed that Article 14(1) of the Ordinance that the Agong decreed mentions that any Parliament session can only take place at a time the Agong deems suitable. As such, I feel the chances of calling for a parliamentary session or cancelling the Emergency are very slim.

“Based on these reasons, I reject and disagree with the request by the MP for Pontian for us to give our support for this special Parliamentary sitting,” she said.

It is understood that Ahmad wrote a letter addressed to Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday, asking all Umno and BN MPs to vote by today through WhatsApp whether to call for an immediate Parliament sitting to discuss the Emergency declaration.

This was met with heavy criticism from the public including from former Umno sec-gen Tan Sri Annuar Musa, who told Ahmad to get advice from a constitutional expert before making remarks and demands he said were “treasonous” against the Agong.

Under Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution, a proclamation of emergency and any ordinances done under it must be presented to the Parliament, and may be annulled if the Parliament passes a resolution to that effect.

However, Section 14(1) of the recently gazetted Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 has seemingly contradicted it by stating that the Parliament is prorogued until the Emergency ends, and can only be called at the discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The Proclamation of Emergency nationwide was gazetted on January 12, and deemed to be in effect from January 11 to August 1.

The Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 was gazetted on January 14, but deemed to have taken effect from January 11 onwards.

In his January 12 speech on the Emergency declaration by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that all elections and Parliament sittings would be suspended, but gave his assurance that the judiciary will continue to function during the Emergency and that the courts will not face any government interference.

Umno’s proposal follows Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s call after saying he wrote to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to ask that the latter rescind the Proclamation of Emergency placed across Malaysia until August 1.

According to Anwar’s letter that he shared with the media, he said Muhyiddin had misled the Agong with the advice for the proclamation and that Muhyiddin was also in no position to do so as his government no longer has majority support among federal lawmakers.

PKR’s Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim and Selayang MP William Leong are also spearheading two separate legal challenges dispute the Proclamation of Emergency.

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