The Malaysian Bar views with deep concern the Government’s continued failure to heed the repeated calls by various parties to reconvene Parliament.
While we acknowledge the Government’s need to focus on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of governing Malaysia cannot be one-dimensional. We are of the view that public health and safety measures may be carried out in tandem with, and not at the expense of, the reconvening of Parliament.
The global pandemic has transformed how national governments all around the world have had to operate. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom (“UK”), have transformed their legislative procedures in order that the business of Parliament can continue to be conducted, albeit through “hybrid” sittings. Indeed, the Westminster Parliament never stopped working, even throughout the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, and even though their members of Parliament were not prioritised and expedited for vaccination.
So, the question that the Malaysian Government continues to be asked, and for which there has been no satisfactory answer, is why is the Malaysian Parliament different? Why has the Malaysian Parliament remained closed when all members of Parliament have been or could have been, vaccinated? Why has not the legislative branch of Government been allowed to perform its constitutional functions?
The Malaysian Bar fully supports the idea of “hybrid” sittings which would effectively allow Parliament to be convened through partly digital (virtual) and partly physical means. This is to ensure that Parliament can perform its purposes and serve the citizens at all times.
The suspension of Parliament and the various State Assemblies sittings is not in the spirit of our Constitutional principles of democracy, separation of powers, and the rule of law.
In fact, it is especially during critical and urgent circumstances such as this global pandemic, that the scrutiny of Parliament is most necessary. The requisite checks and balances of a robust Parliamentary oversight is the very “inoculation” that is needed to prevent any abuse.
The Malaysian Bar therefore strongly urges the Government to reconvene Parliament without any further delay. There is a myriad of issues that need to be debated and discussed, including ways to handle the pandemic, protect livelihoods and revive the economy. These matters must be looked into immediately, and the voice of Malaysian democracy must be heard.
A G KALIDAS
16 June 2021