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Members of Malaysia’s parliament attend a session of the lower house of parliament, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia July 26, 2021. — Reuters pic
Members of Malaysia’s parliament attend a session of the lower house of parliament, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia July 26, 2021. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 — Federal lawmakers returned to Parliament last week for a five-day special meeting to hold the government accountable, only to see it come to an abrupt end after it was postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19 infections.

The five-day special meeting that began last week was convened after months of Opposition pressure and Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s expressed view that Parliament should meet immediately.

The meeting came after repeated statements in June from the Istana Negara on the need to reopen Parliament as soon as possible and multiple lawsuits since January by politicians and regular Malaysians challenging the suspension of Parliament during the Emergency.

However, the five sittings were also limited to 80 MPs for each day in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections.

With the limited openings for MPs to attend, several federal lawmakers were noticeably absent from the sittings, according to the Parliament’s Hansard. 

Malay Mail has compiled a list of absent MPs by party, based on the Hansard for the Special Meeting Of The Third Session Of Fourteenth Parliament which took place from July 26 to July 29.

Who was absent?

According to the Hansard, nine MPs were consistently absent on all days of the special meeting: three each from Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), and one each from Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) respectively. 

Those absent were Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin (Bersatu), Bagan Datuk MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN), Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (PAS), Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN), Kepala Batas MP Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican (BN), Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (GPS), Bukit Gantang MP Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal (Bersatu), Bandar Tun Razak MP Datuk Kamarudin Jaafar (Bersatu) and Sri Aman MP Datuk Masir Kujat (PSB).

Those who were absent for three sitting days were Nibong Tebal MP Datuk Mansor Othman, Lumut MP Datuk Mohd Hatta Ramli and Miri MP Michael Teo Yu Keng. 

Both Zahid and Abdul Hadi are presidents to Umno and PAS respectively. Zuraida is the housing and local government minister while Kamarudin is deputy foreign affairs minister. 

However, not all the absences were without justification. Mansor previously confirmed he was positive for Covid-19 and in quarantine.

Similar to Mansor, Zahid also confirmed he was in home quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.

Separately, Youth and Sports Minister Reezal Merican was absent as he is currently in Japan together with the Malaysian contingent competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Overall, Bersatu had the most absentees, leaving 20 chairs vacant across all four days. This was followed by Pakatan Harapan at 19 and Barisan Nasional with 16. 

Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) accounted for the fewest absentees at just one federal lawmaker — Jerlun MP Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir — on July 26, but this was also because of Covid-19 quarantine.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun previously revealed on July 26 that up to eight MPs had been forced to sit out the first sitting after they were asked to undergo quarantine for being Covid-19 close contacts. 

It must be noted, however, that the Hansard only registers MPs who have manually checked-in once for the day through their respective work laptops located at their designated seats, with their attendances also recorded separately by the chamber attendants on certain occasions.

In other words, MPs who were present but failed to check-in would be considered absent while those who checked-in earlier but leave mid-way before sittings conclude were still considered present.

Currently, there are only 220 MPs as two parliamentary seats are vacant following the deaths of the incumbents.

While the special parliamentary sitting slated for today has been indefinitely postponed along with a possible test of confidence for the PM to be tabled by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, it remains to be seen whether all lawmakers would attend the next sitting to vote to end the Emergency and its related Ordinances.

 

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