KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman has written to Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun to criticise his advice for the government to suspend Parliament during the Emergency.
The Pengerang MP questioned why the country has refused to employ means to facilitate Parliament sittings like other countries, such as reducing the number of MPs present, having flexible sitting hours, and broadcasting the House’s proceedings.
“Instead of improvising so parliamentary proceedıngs can take place, the government has opted to suspend parliamentary sittings altogether.
“If that was not enough, the Attorney General’s Chambers has now advised the government, rather restrictively I may add, that all activities of committees established in Parliament including Special Select Committees (SCs) can no longer continue even if conducted virtually,” she said in the letter.
The letter was also copied to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, among others.
In the letter, Azalina also suggested that the current Cabinet be suspended and replaced with an Emergency Cabinet that would have only limited powers until the Emergency is lifted on August 1.
She said with SCs unable to continue, it prevents MPs who are members of the SCs from investigating and scrutinising issues affecting Malaysians and publishing their findings and recommendations.
“In this regard, with the Legislature’s functions emasculated and the SCs activities are terminated, the Executive seems to appear to have a free rein over the affairs of the country whilst the state of Emergency is in force.
“What is even more worrying for Malaysia’s Parliamentary democracy is that any Emergency proclaimed, or any ordinance promulgated under Article 150 ‘shall not be challenged or called in question in any ground’,” Azalina said.
The former de facto law minister said the situation raised several questions, including how the executive will be held accountable for its decisions and whether the country is excusing ministerial responsibility because of a health crisis.
On her suggestion of a Special Emergency Cabinet with reduced powers and comprising relevant ministries, Azalina said: “Concurrently, a bipartisan Special Parliamentary Committee comprising government and Opposition MPs can be chaired by the Yang Di-Pertua Dewan Rakyat to, among others, enforce ministerial responsibility and provide the necessary checks and balances.”