KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — De facto law minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan today said that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is researching ways to run the Parliament sessions via hybrid mode after sessions were suspended since the Emergency Proclamation was declared in January.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah declared a state of Emergency on January 12 to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“The government is studying the concept and mechanism towards the implementation of a hybrid parliamentary session involving the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara sessions. This step was taken to ensure that Parliament will be able to play its due role even though the country is still facing the Covid-19 pandemic and the rehabilitation program is still underway at all levels.
“A meeting was held today virtually between me as the minister in charge of Parliament affairs, with both the Speakers of the House of Representatives and the Senate and Deputy Speakers, to discuss matters relating to preparations towards the implementation of a hybrid Parliament that covers aspects of infrastructure, technical, legal, regulatory and financial.
“Today’s meeting basically agreed on the plan of this hybrid Parliament concept, held based on the participation of Members of Parliament in physical presence as well as virtually.
“In the meeting, it was also decided that a more detailed study be made immediately to provide a complete paper that will be produced in the near future for the consideration and approval of the Cabinet,” Takiyuddin said.
Takiyuddin’s statement comes after Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin today suggested that the reopening of Parliament through online sittings would come with its own set of “problems” and that not reopening it for physical meetings could help prevent a cluster of Covid-19 cases from forming.
In a report by media outlet Astro Awani, Hamzah highlighted that more than 1,000 individuals would be involved if Parliament were to reopen physically.
Hamzah, who is also secretary-general of ruling party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, appeared to take a potshot at Opposition party PKR over its party congress being held online this week.
He claimed that this meant that PKR did not dare to hold its national party congress physically such as during Parliament meetings.
“It (PKR) also does not dare to carry out meetings as per the demands to open Parliament. So if it does not dare to open, it does it virtually. So if we want to open Parliament virtually, there are many other problems.
“How to do it virtually? Many, government officers, in the thousands, this is what we have to think about, if can why not but it involves perkiraan (planning) for what is done must have proper studies. Don’t follow emotions,” he was also quoted as saying.
Today was the first day of PKR’s three-day 15th National Congress which is being held fully online, with today kicking off with the women’s wing’s congress and tomorrow being the youth wing’s congress.
According to national news agency Bernama, the fully online congress — the first-ever in PKR’s 22-year history — will see 2,400 PKR leaders and PKR delegates attending through the video-conferencing service Zoom from their homes.
During the Emergency that took effect from January 11 and is set to last until August 1 if not extended or ended earlier, Parliament meetings have been suspended — which means new laws or legal amendments cannot be debated on and passed by MPs for now, and which would temporarily suspend an avenue for MPs to carry out their roles in holding the government accountable and to act as checks and balances.
Last year when Parliament sittings were deferred amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysian youths had organised Parlimen Digital with 222 youth representatives to show that it is possible for the government to hold Parliament sittings online.
Lawyers and MPs had last year also told Malay Mail that Parliamentary proceedings in Malaysia can easily be conducted online through video-conferencing without even having to amend the Federal Constitution, stressing that it is not “rocket science” but simply a matter of whether there is political will to do so.