Parliament remains robust amidst health and political challenges
KUALA LUMPUR,. In the face of trying health and political challenges in 2021, Parliament, the country’s highest legislative body, has remained strong in formulating laws and serving as a forum for discussing issues affecting the people.
On Dec 20, the Dewan Rakyat drew the curtain on the second meeting of the fourth session of the 14th Parliament after a 32-day sitting which, among others, saw the approval of the RM332.1 billion Budget 2022, the country’s largest ever, which is mainly aimed at rejuvenating the Covid-19-hit economy.
History was also created on Dec 14 when amendments to the Federal Constitution related to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) to strengthen the position of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia were adopted with a more than two-thirds majority.
The second meeting, which began on Oct 25, was conducted in a new political spirit following the signing of a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Transformation and Political Stability between the federal government led by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).
The MoU was signed by Ismail Sabri, who was sworn in as the ninth Prime Minister on Aug 21, and the heads of PH component parties at about 5 pm on Sept 13 at Parliament building, paving the way for bipartisan cooperation based on the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia (the Malaysian Family).
The Dewan Rakyat, which normally convenes for three meetings in each session, could only meet twice in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been a menace since it hit the country’s shores in early 2020.
The first meeting of the fourth session was held for 17 days from Sept 13 to Oct 12, with the main focus being the tabling of the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) for 2021 to 2025 by the government involving an allocation of RM400 billion.
Parliamentary sittings had been postponed since early this year after Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Jan 12 gave his consent for the Declaration of Proclamation of Emergency to be implemented until Aug 1, as a proactive measure to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Malaysia.
About one month later, Al-Sultan Abdullah expressed his view that Parliament could convene during the emergency period on a date deemed suitable by His Majesty based on the advice of the then Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Following that, political leaders from the opposition and government blocs called for Parliament to convene to specifically discuss the issue of Covid-19, which subsequently saw the King granting an audience to political leaders on June 9.
On June 16, Al-Sultan Abdullah expressed his view that Parliament should convene as soon as possible, and this stand was supported by the other Malay Rulers.
On July 5, the government agreed to advise the King that a special meeting of the Dewan Rakyat for the third session be held for five days on July 26, 27, 28 and 29, and Aug 2 while the Dewan Negara sitting be held from Aug 3 to 5.
The fourth day of the special sitting was supposed to discuss socio-economic issues but the topic changed after attention shifted to the emergency order following an Istana Negara statement expressing the King’s deep regret over a statement made in Parliament that the government had revoked all Emergency Ordinances when His Majesty had yet to give his consent.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim then submitted a motion that the Dewan Rakyat has lost confidence in Muhyiddin and that he be immediately removed as the prime minister.
On that day the meeting was postponed five times beginning from 12.30 pm, before Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon announced at 5.15 pm that the meeting had been adjourned to 10 am on Monday, Aug 2.
However, the Monday meeting did not materialise after the Dewan Rakyat issued a notice postponing the sitting to a date to be determined later following the latest development on the spread of Covid-19 in Parliament.
Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) then staged a gathering at Dataran Merdeka to protest the postponement.
On Aug 3, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that statutory declarations by Umno MPs to withdraw support for Muhyiddin had been presented to the King.
Finally, on Aug 16 Muhyiddin announced his resignation after acknowledging the loss of majority support in Parliament, thus ending his tenure as the prime minister after 17 months.