Malaysia's Parliament sitting delayed by two months till May 18, says Speaker

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin waving to the media after his inauguration ceremony on March 1, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's parliamentary majority will not be tested until May 18 at the earliest, after Speaker Ariff Yusof revealed that the sitting originally scheduled for next Monday (March 9) has been pushed back.

In a statement on Wednesday, he said he received a letter from the premier informing him of the postponement, and the new dates for the House of Representatives to convene this year.

"I found the dates for the sessions are in line with... the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders," Tan Sri Ariff said.

Critics and members of civil society have called on Parliament to convene as soon as possible, after the toppled Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, claimed to have the backing of up to 114 of the 222 MPs just hours before Tan Sri Muhyiddin was sworn in as Prime Minister on Sunday.

However, with a Cabinet yet to be appointed, there would be no legislative agenda for the March 9 to April 16 sitting earlier planned by the previous government.

Opponents of the new Perikatan Nasional government, including Tun Dr Mahathir, have expressed concerns that if Parliament is not convened soon, the new ruling coalition will have time to entice MPs to cross the aisle.

In an immediate response, the opposition PH's Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said that while the postponement was expected as a new government was just installed, an urgent sitting can still be held earlier.

"The prime minister should call an urgent meeting of Parliament now in the public interest to determine if he commands majority support in the House, as there are doubts as to whether he does," he said in a statement today.

The DAP lawyer was referring to parliamentary rules that only allows the prime minister to call a special meeting for a specific purpose.

Veteran Democratic Action Party (DAP) leader Lim Kit Siang said the delay is seen as a sign of weakness, considering there have been questions raised as to whether Mr Muhyiddin commands a majority support of lawmakers as claimed.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, he said Mr Muhyiddin should instead follow the example set by Malaysia's third prime minister Hussein Onn, who in 1976 held an emergency meeting three days after the death of his predecessor Abdul Razak to show he had the confidence of the Lower House.

"Is Muhyiddin prepared to convene an emergency meeting of Parliament in March itself, as Tun Hussein undoubtedly would have done in the present circumstances, to secure a vote of confidence from Members of Parliament?" said Mr Lim.

The new dates for Parliament to meet for the first time this year are May 18, in the final week of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, to June 23, with a week-long break for the Aidilfitri celebration at the end of the month.

A second session follows from July 27 to August 27, and a final period stretching from Sep 28 to Nov 26, with Budget 2021 to be tabled on Oct 2.

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