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Speaking as part of the Wisdom Foundation webinar on parliamentary reforms tonight, they said the current policies governing Parliament aren’t far-reaching enough as MPs are not held accountable for what they say in Parliament. — Malaysia Information Department/Nazri Rapaai handout pic via Reuters
Speaking as part of the Wisdom Foundation webinar on parliamentary reforms tonight, they said the current policies governing Parliament aren’t far-reaching enough as MPs are not held accountable for what they say in Parliament. — Malaysia Information Department/Nazri Rapaai handout pic via Reuters

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — There must be more parliamentary select committees, longer parliamentary sessions and more amendments limiting the amount of powers MPs can have when in government, several politicians said tonight.

Speaking as part of the Wisdom Foundation webinar on parliamentary reforms tonight, they said the current policies governing Parliament aren’t far-reaching enough as MPs are not held accountable for what they say in Parliament.

Former Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azalina Othman Said said, as a result, Statute Paper No. 235 of 1983 as well as the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 (Act 347) should be amended.

She said one of the biggest hurdles faced by a hybrid Parliament would be that current laws require parliamentary select committees to meet in-person.

“This is where voting becomes hard as we do not have proxy voting in Malaysia,” said Azalina who is in support of a hybrid Parliament session.

“Right now, we can’t do any hybrid sessions as our forefathers did not account for things like Covid-19 and for us to make decisions outside Parliament.

“We need changes to the Rules of the Meetings. We need special sessions for housekeeping and amendments to Sections 3, 7, 9 and 23 of the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Power) Act 1952 (Act 347) which is the most sensitive Act,” she said.

“As you know, whatever any MP says in Parliament is given immunity against prosecution. It is a sort of protection where if we bring up issues like slander, it can be discussed with certain provisions. So, moving forward, the government must be more creative and open to foster a more proactive situation for all to participate in Parliament.”

Similarly, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said there is a need for more special or select committees because all decisions should be independent, free of bias and fairly represented.

“This situation is unique and not right. It should be under the purview of a select committee who gets experts to scrutinise a Bill in detail. This does not happen in Malaysia. In terms of reforming Parliament, this must change.

“In fact, this is the first time since Parliament began in Malaysia that many months have passed since a Parliament session happened due to an Emergency declaration. However, when there’s no Emergency, we only sit for 50 to 76 days in a year compared to other nations that only have a summer or winter break.

“So we not only need a fixed set of days and time and committees to overlook this, we also must have a vote of confidence called against the prime minister. After all, since Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin took over the government, he never called for any vote of confidence.

“This is what a morally right Speaker would call for. Therefore, a question of leadership will not arise,” he said, while alluding to calls for newly minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to table a vote of confidence in Parliament.

Fahmi said both Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for a vote of confidence in Parliament soon after becoming prime minister to ensure stability.

As for Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, she said there needs to be more representation on select committees from the Opposition bloc.

She said the public are not aware of the importance of these committees and that any minister or executive in government should not chair them.

“A select committee will have the power to subpoena an MP or direct an official to attend meetings to answer questions. That’s why we also need to delimit the number of people in these committees and allow for flexibility and fluidity in attendance.

“An executive or minister should not be in these committees as decisions here can make or break an issue,” she said.

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