No Malaysian Parliament sitting until emergency ends on Aug 1, says minister

Malaysia's Parliament last sat on Dec 14, 2020, with a vote for the 2021 Budget approved.
Malaysia's Parliament last sat on Dec 14, 2020, with a vote for the 2021 Budget approved.PHOTO: AFP/TERESA KOK

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian Parliament won't reconvene until the country's state of emergency is over on Aug 1, said the Cabinet minister in charge of parliamentary affairs on Wednesday (March 3).

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Takiyuddin Hassan was responding to questions from reporters about a decree by the Malaysian King last week that Parliament could sit during the nationwide emergency that was declared on Jan 12.

The Lower House is scheduled to reconvene this month.

The emergency is set to end on Aug 1, unless an independent committee set up by the government agrees to lift it earlier after being satisfied that the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

Umno and opposition MPs have blasted the government which is led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for avoiding a parliamentary sitting. They claim that he is trying to avoid a confidence vote that would show he does not command majority support in the House.

Datuk Takiyuddin said any decision to call for a Parliament sitting must be made by the Cabinet which would then advise the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.

"Now, the Cabinet advised the King that there is no Parliament sitting. That is the situation now," he said at a news conference in Putrajaya, as reported by The Star daily.

Parliament last sat in mid-December last year, with a vote for the 2021 Budget approved, with 111 supporting the government's motion and 108 against.

But since then several Umno MPs have said they have stopped supporting the Muhyiddin administration.

Last week, two opposition lawmakers jumped to the government bench.

Explaining the government reluctance to reconvene the House, Mr Takiyuddin said in a statement that 100 of the 220 MPs were above 61 years old, a high-risk group.

Additionally, a sitting of the House would entail the presence of at least three officers for each lawmaker, greatly expanding the risk of an infection.

He said 77 MPs were in the age range of 61 to 69, while another 19 MPs were aged between 70 to 79. There are also four MPs aged 80 and above.

There are currently 220 MPs in the 222-seat Lower House following the deaths of two legislators. By-elections have not been called due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"So almost half of our 220 MPs fall under the high-risk category. We don't want our MPs to be exposed in an enclosed area that can trigger the spread of infection," Mr Takiyuddin said, as quoted by Malay Mail online news.

He added that Parliament was suspended for two years from 1969 to 1972 during the state of emergency then, following the deadly May 1969 race riots.

"The present emergency is until Aug 1 this year. That's six months and 20 days," he said.

"That is our explanation and justification. No other hidden meanings," he added.

PM Muhyiddin has said that Parliament will be dissolved and a general election will be held once the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.