KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — After months of waiting for Parliament to reconvene, this week’s special Dewan Rakyat sitting ended abruptly yesterday with a lockdown on the entire complex after Covid-19 cases were detected within its grounds.
Furthermore, leading up to the end of yesterday’s sitting, a commotion broke out among the members of the lower House of Parliament, after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong issued a statement on Facebook responding to a previous announcement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan.
Takiyuddin, who is in charge of law and parliamentary affairs, said on July 26 that the government had voided and annulled on July 21 six of the Emergency Ordinances drafted and enforced during the nationwide Emergency that started in January.
Takiyuddin’s announcement baffled MPs and the public alike. Lawyers weighed in and said the revocation should not have been possible without being assented to by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong first.
After the lockdown in Parliament was announced to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the Dewan Rakyat Speaker gave an assurance that sitting will resume on Monday as scheduled.
However, many matters remain unclear, including how long the lockdown lasted, how many people were subject to the Covid-19 tests, and if any more positive cases beyond the four announced.
Here is a timeline of key events in Parliament yesterday as we know it:
10.00am >> Livestreams of the Parliament House begin as the special Parliament sitting convenes.
10.30am >> Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun turns down requests by Opposition lawmakers to extend the current special sitting, saying that provisions under the Parliamentary Standing Orders do not accord him the power to do so.
11.00am >> Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announces that applicants of the i-Citra withdrawal scheme under the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) will receive their payments starting next Tuesday.
He also informs the House that the government will table a motion to increase the country’s statutory debt limit from 60 per cent as a ratio of the economy during the next parliamentary meeting, to support “economic recovery plans”.
12.00 noon >> On Facebook, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah releases a statement saying that he has yet to provide royal assent for the revocation of the Emergency Ordinances.
Following this Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim reads out the statement in the House, triggering an uproar among MPs.
Anwar accuses Takiyuddin of misleading the House and demands the minister resign, adding that the rest of the Cabinet should follow suit.
12.30pm >> Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon, who was in the chair, adjourns the meeting for 15 minutes.
12.45pm >> Rashid reenters the House and announces a recess for lunch, adding that the sitting would resume at 2.30pm.
2.30pm >> The sitting is postponed again as Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said briefly addresses the House, telling MPs that the day’s sitting will continue at 3.30pm.
3.35pm >> Rashid reenters and cites a letter from the Health director-general saying two Parliament staff have been found to be Covid-19 positive and announces that Parliament will go into immediate lockdown.
He says everyone present including staff, media workers and lawmakers are barred from leaving the premises until Covid-19 swab tests are completed.
4.30pm >> Anwar and several other Pakatan Harapan leaders hold a press conference where he announces he has filed a formal application for a motion in the Dewan Rakyat to remove Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister.
Anwar claims Muhyiddin has lost the confidence of the majority of the MPs, adding that his letter has been formally received by the Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.
5.15pm >> Rashid postpones the day’s special sitting to Monday after announcing that two more members of the Lower House have tested positive for Covid-19.
He also advises all MPs, Parliament workers and media personnel who were in the building from Monday to Wednesday but absent yesterday to undergo Covid-19 tests at the nearest clinic or hospital immediately.
Malay Mail understands MPs and others in Parliament who tested negative for Covid-19 were allowed to leave the premises.
6.00pm >> Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob issues a statement that “more than 110” MPs are “with the government”.
6.45pm >> Anwar addresses the press again from within the Parliament building, saying that he has been given assurance by Azhar that the Parliament sitting will go on as scheduled on Monday.
6.50pm >> The Prime Minister’s Office releases a press statement saying Muhyiddin Yassin and Takiyuddin had followed the due processes laid out in the Federal Constitution when announcing the revocation of the Emergency Ordinances.