Agong says Parliament can reconvene during Emergency, subject to yet-to-be-announced date

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is flanked by Dewan Negara Speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim (left) and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azhar Azizan Harun at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur February 24, 2021. — Picture via Facebook/Istana Negara
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is flanked by Dewan Negara Speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim (left) and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azhar Azizan Harun at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur February 24, 2021. — Picture via Facebook/Istana Negara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — The Yang di-Pertuan Agong today decreed that Parliament could reconvene even during the Emergency period, upon the advice of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The statement was released by the Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin this afternoon.

“Therefore, assumptions by some parties that the Emergency Proclamation prevents Parliament from convening is inaccurate,” the statement read.

Ahmad Fadil said that the Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, had granted an audience to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Azhar Azizan Harun and Dewan Negara Speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim earlier today.

“During the audience, the Agong had stressed that in Malaysia, as a nation that practises the democratic system based on the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution, all branches of the nation’s administration, regardless whether it is the Executive, the Judiciary or the Legislature, must always abide by the principle.

“Therefore, the Agong expressed his views that Parliament can convene during the enforcement of the Emergency period, at a date, which is seen as suitable by the Agong, based on the advice of the prime minister,” he added.

Ahmad Fadil said that the aforementioned matter is also already stipulated under sub-paragraph 14(1)(b) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021.

“It must be stressed here that the Agong’s assent to the prime minister’s advice, with regard to the Emergency Proclamation on January 12 2021, is solely as a proactive step to curb the Covid-19 pandemic which has killed more than 1,000 lives to date,” he further explained.

On January 12, the Agong consented to a state of Emergency in the country until August 1, or until the current wave of Covid-19 subsides.

In a statement by Istana Negara, at that time, Ahmad Fadil said the decision was made after Muhyiddin was granted an audience with the Agong, a day before the declaration was made.

At the time, the Agong had also received briefings from Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali, Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, and Chief of the Armed Forces Tan Sri Affendi Buang.

The Conference of Rulers was also consulted over the decision.

The Emergency Proclamation was declared under Article 150(1) of the Federal Constitution which states that the Agong can call it if he is “satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened”.

An Emergency committee was also formed, consisting of government and Opposition MPs and relevant health experts to determine if the Emergency will be ended early.

Last week, Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman wrote to the AG to criticise his advice for the government to suspend Parliament during the Emergency.

The Pengerang MP questioned why the country has refused to employ a 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. 

The letter was also copied to the prime minister, 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 Parliamentary Special Select Committees (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.

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