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Reconvene Parliament ASAP? Agong didn’t state when exactly, law minister Takiyuddin says

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said that the Agong did not explicitly mention a date for when Parliament should reopen again. — Bernama file pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — The recent proclamation by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Conference of Rulers that Parliament should be reconvened as soon as possible has been noted by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan.

However he said the Agong did not explicitly mention a date for when Parliament should reopen again.

“His Majesty did not specify any particular date, but said it should be held as soon as possible. So the Prime Minister can announce, for example, that Parliament will reopen in September or October,” Takiyuddin said during a discussion on Bicara Harakah.

Speaking to moderator Badzli Bakar, the de facto law minister added that the Agong also stressed the role of all MPs across the political spectrum to focus on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So if Parliament is to reopen, then they should focus on how best to deal with Covid, rather than anything else.

“As always, the government is ready to openly accept the views of the Opposition MPs with regards to Covid-19. We also thank His Majesty and the Conference of Rulers, over their concerns on the matter,” he said.

Following a special meeting earlier today, the Agong and the Conference of Rulers said it is not necessary to extend the ongoing Emergency period past August 1, and recommended Parliament be reconvened as soon as possible, along with the respective state legislatures.

When asked about whether it is likely Parliament will reconvene in the nearest future, Takiyuddin said it is still a concern if Parliament reopens with most if not all the MPs in attendance.

“You need to take in account the number of people who will be present. In a closed area like the Dewan Rakyat it accommodates 222 MPs. But what about the government officers on duty, the heralds for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Secretary to the Dewan Rakyat?

“Then you have to take into account members of the public present outside the halls, as well as the Parliament staff. We have been informed that every time Parliament convenes, there are at least 1,000 people on the grounds,” he said.

As such the only option available to the government is to do a hybrid Parliament, which does not need MPs residing in other states outside KL and Selangor to attend.

“This way we will determine who will attend, the number of MPs attending, among others. Per Parliament’s rules, the minimum quorum needed for the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara is 26 MPs and 10 Senators, respectively.

“But in order to conduct Parliament virtually, we need to resolve other issues including the legal aspects. The Standing Orders state that attendance by MPs must be physical, and those not in attendance physically cannot vote,” Takiyuddin said, adding that this requires an amendment to the Standing Orders.

Another is the technical aspect, which he said is necessary to ensure that MPs in other states like Sabah, Sarawak, and Kelantan, will be able to conduct virtual debates.

“So this hybrid Parliament needs to be studied and prepared for as well. But I wish to stress that the government remains committed to the democratic process involving Parliament, even though it has yet to open.

“The Prime Minister has said the government will hold Parliament once it is confident the standard operating procedures can be fulfilled. It is not that we do not want to do so, but it will be done in the new norm,” Takiyuddin said.

The relevant study to reopen a hybrid Parliament is currently in its final stage, and is being analysed in detail by the Speakers of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara together with their deputies.

Yesterday Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the government is committed to the reconvening of Parliament once the country is in Phase 3 of the National Recovery Plan, sometime in September or October.

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