KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has formed a committee comprising government and opposition lawmakers to look into key issues before Parliament can reconvene, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Sunday (June 20), as he faces pressure from the country's Malay rulers to reopen Parliament as soon as possible.
He said one issue that needs checking is whether the sitting would involve all 220 Members of Parliament being present in the Lower House, or whether it could be "a hybrid" of physical and virtual presence, Bernama news agency quoted him as saying.
"I will need to closely look into this," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said, when asked by reporters about the Parliament sitting, after visiting a vaccination centre.
"I understand (the matter) very well and I was advised not only by the Minister of Law but by the Attorney-General that my actions and those of the government must be in line with what is stipulated in the Constitution."
The government needs to find out whether provisions in Parliament's Standing Orders allow for a hybrid session, Mr Muhyiddin said.
Another issue is whether seating arrangements would need to be adjusted to comply with health protocols. There are usually 222 MPs in Malaysia's federal Parliament, but two lawmakers have died and the coronavirus pandemic has led to the suspension of by-elections.
All the MPs have been fully vaccinated, leading to criticism that Mr Muhyiddin is delaying Parliament's reopening as he does not have enough MPs to support his fragile 15-month-old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
Said former premier Najib Razak on Facebook on Sunday: "There is no need for a study. I can provide the solution.
"Step one: send a notice to the Speaker to convene Parliament. Step two: sitting is in session. The end."
Parliament last sat in December last year to pass this year's budget, with the Muhyiddin administration using the national state of emergency, imposed on Jan 11, to suspend Parliament and the 13 state assemblies.
"I understand my responsibilities as prime minister but I have to act fairly to ensure there are no arising issues or problems later on... This is something I hope the people can understand and wait for," Mr Muhyiddin said, as quoted by Bernama.
Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, after chairing a special meeting of the Malay rulers last Wednesday, urged the government to reconvene Parliament "as soon as possible".
In a separate statement last Wednesday, the other Malay rulers said there was no reason to extend the expiry of the state of emergency on Aug 1.
The emergency was supposed to allow the government to focus on containing the pandemic and its harsh economic fallout.
But daily Covid-19 cases have climbed from 2,232 on Jan 11, when the emergency was imposed, to 5,293 on Sunday, with rising tallies for deaths, those in intensive care wards and unemployment.
Malaysia is pushing to accelerate its vaccination drive, with over 11 per cent of the population inoculated at least once against the disease.
But the country is grappling with shortages of vaccine supplies amid a global rush for them.
Opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday said the PN government's biggest failure is its inability to quickly import vaccine supplies.
"The biggest failure of the government is the provision of adequate vaccine supplies," Datuk Seri Anwar said in his party's annual congress which was held online.