Deputy Speaker: Parliament’s July-August sittings may be limited to just 80 MPs, no hybrid sessions for now

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Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 20, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon is pictured at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 20, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — There is a proposal for a maximum of 80 MPs at any one time in the Dewan Rakyat hall when Parliament reconvenes for five days of special sittings in July and August, Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon has reportedly said.

According to local news outlet The Star’s website, Mohd Rashid had said the Dewan Rakyat committee had suggested this limit, and that the political parties’ chief whips would discuss this with a decision expected soon as there is about one week before the Dewan Rakyat reconvenes from July 26.

“This suggestion is similar to what was set during the last Parliament meeting last year where only 80 out of 222 MPs were allowed to enter,” he was quoted saying by The Star.

According to the report, Mohd Rashid said the 80 MPs’ allocation would comprise 44 government MPs and 36 opposition MPs, noting that MPs could rotate among themselves to attend each Dewan Rakyat session that is limited to 80 MPs just like last year.

He said that each Dewan Rakyat session will last for about four hours, with the morning session being from 10am to 1pm and the afternoon session being from 2.30pm to 5.30pm.

Currently, there are 220 MPs as two parliamentary seats are vacant following the deaths of two MPs, with 80 MPs amounting to about 36 per cent or just slightly above one-third of the full number.

Today, The Star reported Mohd Rashid as saying that all MPs should ask questions about Covid-19 issues only to ministers and deputy ministers during the special sittings, and said that the motion on enabling hybrid Parliament sittings is not in the parliamentary agenda now.

“No debates are allowed during the meeting but we will give space for the MPs to ask questions and there is one motion — which is to make Parliament hybrid or not — but that is not at the agenda right now as we can do it normally,” he was quoted saying by The Star.

He also reportedly said that each minister and their deputy ministers are to limit their staff numbers to two or three in the Parliament building and they must undergo a Covid-19 screening test and comply with SOPs.

On July 5, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had announced that the government has agreed to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for special sittings over five days at the Dewan Rakyat from July 26 to 29 and August 2, and over three days at the Dewan Negara from August 3 to August 5.

The PMO had said the special sittings are intended to provide explanations to MPs about the National Recovery Plan and to amend all the necessary laws and rules to enable hybrid Parliament sittings, and with the proclamations of Emergency and Emergency ordinances to be laid before Parliament.

On July 15, the Dewan Rakyat secretary listed activities as determined by the prime minister for the upcoming five-day special sittings as being for the proclamations of Emergency and Emergency ordinances to be tabled before Parliament in line with constitutional requirements and for ministers to provide briefing to MPs on the National Recovery Plan, the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Emergency’s implementation and economic stimulus packages.

The Dewan Rakyat had on July 15 also said the speaker has allowed MPs to seek explanations and give their views when ministers provide the briefings, but did not include the customary parliamentary debates by MPs in the schedule for the five-day special sittings.

Previously on June 4, minister in charge of law and Parliament Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan had announced that the government is studying the concept of a hybrid Parliament and the mechanisms for it, and had said more detailed studies would be undertaken immediately before it is raised in the nearest time to Cabinet for its consideration and approval. A special committee was formed to carry out the study.

On June 25, the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara speakers said in a joint statement that the proposed hybrid Parliament session can happen in late August or the first week of September this year, and proposed for a special parliamentary sitting for MPs to discuss resolutions such as amendments to standing orders to enable a hybrid Parliament.

The two speakers had said that the special committee had studied the operations and technological aspects of a hybrid Parliament, and that the proposal was for hybrid sittings to have at least 26 Dewan Rakyat members and at least 10 senators in the Dewan Negara to attend to achieve the required quorum, while the rest could either attend virtually or physically subject to the National Security Council and the Health Ministry.

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