Malaysia's King calls again for Parliament to reconvene

Statement after meeting with House Speaker and Senate president at palace adds to pressure on PM Muhyiddin

Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, yesterday reiterated his call for Parliament and its relevant committees to sit "as soon as possible", increasing pressure on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's administration to set a date for legislators to meet for the first time this year.

In a statement from the national palace, Sultan Abdullah reiterated his position after an hour-long meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate president and their deputies on issues concerning the reconvening of Parliament.

"His Majesty is of the opinion that a Parliament sitting needs to take place as soon as possible according to guidelines and Covid-19 standard operating procedures set by the Parliament and government," Comptroller of the Royal Household, Datuk Indera Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, said.

Sultan Abdullah had made a similar call on June 16 after a special Council of Rulers meeting with Malaysia's eight other monarchs.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin had previously said Parliament can sit again in September, once the country is in phase three of its Covid-19 exit plan.

House Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun and Senate president Rais Yatim last Friday said a hybrid sitting for Parliament would be possible towards the end of August or early September. They were subsequently summoned for yesterday's audience with Sultan Abdullah at the palace.

The King also said that all the parliamentary committees should resume meeting in order to provide a check and balance to the administration.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - comprising lawmakers who scrutinise public spending - has not been able to meet since Sultan Abdullah granted Mr Muhyiddin's request for a state of emergency in January, which resulted in Parliament being suspended.

The PAC chairman, Democratic Action Party MP Wong Kah Woh, has repeatedly called for the committee to be allowed to sit to scrutinise the government's emergency spending for the Covid-19 pandemic, which had bypassed parliamentary approval.

Mr Muhyiddin has set up a bipartisan committee to look into reconvening Parliament - but this committee is set to have its first meeting only next week.

Pressure on Mr Muhyiddin has also been growing after a large majority of Malaysian states started making moves to reconvene their respective state legislatures following Sultan Abdullah's decree two weeks ago.

Melaka's state assembly is set to convene in the middle of next month. Johor's will sit on Aug 12, while Selangor's state assembly will sit on Aug 23.

All the other states - except for Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan - have sought consent from their state monarchs while making preparations for a sitting. The Sarawak state assembly's five-year term expired this month.

Malaysia's six-month state of emergency expires on Aug 1, and the country's Council of Rulers has said the emergency should not be extended beyond that date.

The state of emergency was granted to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, but the crisis worsened during that period.

Malaysia recorded 6,437 new infections yesterday. The country is under a lockdown in the first phase of its Covid-19 exit plan, which has been extended indefinitely owing to the persistent high number of cases. It will not move to the second phase unless it reports fewer than 4,000 infections a day and 10 per cent of its population has been fully vaccinated. To date, 6.5 per cent of Malaysians have been fully vaccinated.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2021, with the headline Malaysia's King calls again for Parliament to reconvene. Subscribe