Azalina Tells Govt To Let Mps Help In Covid 19 Fight By Reopening Parliament
Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said said reopening the Parliament will actually help the government in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic by increasing the rakyat’s understanding of pandemic-related policies as well as their trust in the government.
“Actually, I made the suggestion to reopen Parliament even though the infection rate is still so high. It is because I think reopening the Parliament can help the government to alleviate pandemic issues – not just the virus element, but the rakyat’s understanding,” Azalina said in an online webinar live-streamed on Facebook last night.
The webinar, titled ‘Why Does Parliament Need to Convene During Covid-19’ was jointly hosted by electoral watchdog Bersih and Malay daily Sinar Harian. Aside from Azalina (above), the other panellist was Subang MP Wong Chen and it was moderated by political analyst Wong Chin Huat.
Azalina, who is the MP for Pengerang, said parliamentarians are accountable to their constituents and they can help explain the government’s pandemic-related policies to the rakyat.
“There is a lot of fake news, for example, related to the vaccine. When we want to ask, who do we ask? Who can answer? Who can give us confidence?
“In the parliamentary process, whether virtually or physically, in terms of the Constitution, an executive representative cannot run away from answering questions.
“Whether the MPs agree or not, that can be debated, but they are obligated to answer questions,” she said.
Azalina also said the rakyat need to have high levels of trust in the government in order for the policies to be implemented smoothly.
“One of the approaches around the world in fighting Covid-19 is that there needs to be trust in the government. If there is a trust deficit, this will interfere with the implementation of government policies.
“(For example,) the government said don’t go back for Raya celebrations. (The rakyat) went back anyway.
“There are many things that the rakyat need to have a deeper understanding of,” she said.
Subang MP Wong Chen
In a similar vein, Wong Chen said the rakyat have a trust deficit in the government currently, as it is not performing well in handling the pandemic.
In order to restore the rakyat’s trust and confidence in the government again, there is no choice but to reopen Parliament so that MPs can ask the government questions, Wong said.
“If the government functions well, even if there is an emergency, many people can accept it. But with the high infection rate every day, the rakyat cannot accept this.
“They have to open Parliament, they have no choice so that we, as MPs, can ask questions to assuage the rakyat and win back some trust from them,” he said.
Azalina stressed that there is no other avenue as effective as Parliament for MPs to ask the government questions, as it is lawfully obligated to answer MPs in the august House.
The government has no obligation to answer to the MPs through any other avenues, she said, pointing to her letter to the attorney-general that did not get a reply.
“My letter went unanswered. Outside of parliament, no matter what you say, what you write, no matter what social media platform we use, (the government) is not obligated to answer.
“If we ask in Parliament, they are mandated to answer because, in the Constitution, it guarantees, it forces, it determines that they will answer.
“The letter received no response, because, maybe there was no obligation to reply to the letter,” she said.
Not only that, Article 63 of the Federal Constitution also guarantees MPs’ immunity for whatever is said within the Dewan Rakyat, Azalina said.
This gives MPs greater space to question the government’s policies, she said.
“I also sometimes wonder, our questions here (in this webinar), what will happen if tomorrow or the day after, the authorities come knocking on our doors because we were asking questions about the Emergency.
“It is as if they have locked the MPs’ mouths from asking questions,” she said.
Parliament last convened during the November-December 2020 session. All state legislatures have been suspended since Jan 11 following the proclamation of the emergency, which is set to expire on Aug 1.
However, an end to the emergency is now in doubt, due to the slow rollout of the vaccination programme and the ever-rising number of new Covid-19 cases, intensive care bed use and deaths. - Mkini
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