Excuses, excuses: Why call it a ‘study’ when ‘buying time’ is more like it?

PRIME Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin recently announced that the country has formed a committee comprising government and opposition lawmakers to look into key issues before Parliament can reconvene as he faces pressure from the country’s Malay rulers to reconvene Parliament as soon as possible.

But some serious doubt has been cast on the real reason for this committee: is it truly to study how Parliament can reconvene (what is there to study, really?), or is it nothing more than a delay tactic, as many political pundits have decried?

According to the PM, the committee would consider whether the sitting would involve all 220 Members of Parliament (MPs) being present in the Lower House, or whether it could be a ‘hybrid’ of physical land virtual presence.

But then again, no other country had to conduct studies to see how a hybrid Parliament can function.

In a bid to keep democracy going during the coronavirus crisis, the hybrid model in the United Kingdom, for example, was developed and chosen as an achievable first step towards a virtual Parliament barely a month after the country went into lockdown on March 23, 2020.

With myriad of applications and remote-working technologies available, is this to say that Malaysia lacks the technical and digital know-how required to conduct a Parliament sitting?

The most frustrating thing about this is the fact that we have been in some mode of lockdown or another for more than a year now. Couldn’t a committee be formed to study this possibility (or anything else Parliament-related that needs to be studied) back then?

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.

Seeing as to how all MPs have been fully vaccinated, the second possibility – that Mahiaddin has been dragging his feet on Parliament’s reopening to buy more time (and possibly to buy over more MPs, perhaps?) – would make more sense.

After all, it’s no secret that the prime minister only commands a razor-thin parliamentary majority. Bearing in mind that he barely has enough MPs to support his fragile Perikatan Nasional Government, the repercussions from allowing Parliament to reconvene would put his position in further jeopardy.

It would also put his handpicked appointments of political defectors to key positions in great peril.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that the rulers would have considered wide-ranging perspectives before issuing their order to reconvene Parliament “as soon as possible”. The phrase by itself indicates that the matter is one of great urgency.

So far, there hasn’t been much details available about the ‘committee’, other than the fact that it would comprise Government and Opposition lawmakers.

It would be interesting to learn, in the coming days (if not weeks) who the members of the committee are, and what sort of ‘studies’ are they conducting. All in the name of transparency and accountability, you know.

And no, this ‘study’ cannot take several months. Beyond His Majesties’ decree that Parliament should reconvene as soon as possible, there is also the fact that there are so many deferred bills to be discussed, and laws to be addressed, so it’s high time the people involved roll up their sleeves and get to work. – June 24, 2021

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