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KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — Parliament sittings are discouraged at the moment due to the high risk posed by the Covid-19 virus to nearly half of the elected representatives, de facto law minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said today.
The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department pointed out that 100 of the current batch of 220 MPs fall under the Covid-19 high-risks category. Two seats, Batu Sapi and Gerik, are currently vacant as their MPs died and elections have been postponed.
“The current Malaysian Parliament comprises 200 MPs since two MPs — Batu Sapi and Gerik — have died. Now out of 220, 77 of them are aged between 61 and 69-years-old or under the high risks group.
“For those between 70 and 79, there are 19. These are facts, you can check. There are four aged 80 and above.
“So almost half of our 220 MPs fall under the high-risk category. We don’t want our MPs to be exposed in an enclosed area that can trigger the spread of infection,” he said during a press conference aired over Facebook.
Takiyuddin was asked to respond to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decree that Parliament could sit even during the nationwide state of Emergency, which was declared on January 12. The Dewan Rakyat was scheduled to reconvene this month.
He added that the risk was exponentially high as each MP would be accompanied by at least three officers. He said this excluded other government officials who would also be in attendance in Parliament, and said there would have been a large number of people gathering within an enclosed area at one time.
“The government is indeed serious about its effort to curb Covid-19 among the populace including MPs,” he said by way of explaining the decision not to go ahead with the Dewan Rakyat sitting as originally scheduled this month.
The minister from PAS also said that Parliament has not been “suspended” as widely believed, but only “postponed”.
He explained that this was collectively agreed by the Cabinet and not decided by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin alone.
He added that the decision was based on existing scientific and data findings and described the MPs as among Malaysia’s Covid-19 “frontliners”.
He said this has been conveyed to the King who holds the authority to call for Parliament, subject to advice from the Cabinet.
“In terms of legal factors, it is clearly stated in the Constitution that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may introduce laws in the form of ordinances during an Emergency and the need for Parliament to be convened for the aforementioned purpose is therefore not necessary,” he said.
Takiyuddin insisted that the postponement of Parliament is to allow the government to focus on ending the spread of the coronavirus.
He also reiterated that there have been precedents for withholding Parliament sittings during an Emergency. He cited the two-year absence from February 1969 to February 1971 following the May 13 racial riots as an example.
“So there is no issue here because the Emergency is slated to last until August 1 and the prime minister has given his guarantee that Parliament will reconvene when it is lifted.
“When Parliament is not in session, MPs can give their fullest attention in the fight against Covid-19.
“That is our explanation, our justification and meant nothing else,” he added.