By Lim Kit Siang
THE 19-member independent committee headed by former Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria should advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong that the Emergency Proclamation of Jan 11 does not preclude the convening of a Special Parliament on COVID-19 pandemic to give effect to Article 43(3) of the Constitution that “The Cabinet should be collectively responsible to Parliament”.
This is fortified by six grounds:
Firstly, although the Clause 14(1)(a) Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 provides that “For so long as the emergency is in force, (a) the provisions relating to the summoning, proroguing and dissolution of Parliament in the Federal Constitution shall not have effect”, it also provides in Clause 14(1)(b) that “the Parliament shall be summoned, prorogued and dissolved on a date as the Yang di Pertuan Agong thinks appropriate”.
Secondly, the Constitution never envisaged that Parliament would be suspended in a proclamation of emergency. In fact, for 35 years from 1977 to 2012, Parliament had operated under four Proclamations of Emergency.
Thirdly, the Constitution is founded on the doctrine of the separation of powers of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, and any proclamation of emergency should give effect to this constitutional distribution of powers, and in particular, Article 43(3) of the Constitution that “The Cabinet shall be collectively responsible to Parliament”.
There is no reason why Malaysia should ban Parliament from its parliamentary role, to scrutinise the Executive and ensure that there is an effective and efficient “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against COVID-19 pandemic.
Other countries including those with significantly higher number of COVID-19 infections have not suspended their Parliament.
Fourthly, the need to ensure accountability and transparency in the allocation of unprecedented amounts of funds to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is particularly important with the adverse report of the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index 2020 recently.
Fifthly, the letter by the Deputy Speaker, Azalina Othman Said to the Attorney-General Idrus Harun expressing her bewilderment as to why Parliament is emasculated from playing its constitutional role in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sixthly, to ensure the success of the national vaccination campaign beginning on Feb 26 when over 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines would have already been administered in close to 100 countries. – Feb 19, 2021
Lim Kit Siang is the DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.