KUCHING, April 19: Parliament may sit for any number of days as the Federal Constitution does not specify the period Parliament must be convened for.
Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar explained that the practice of the Lower House to sit and the number of days it sits in each session is administratively the arrangement of the Dewan Rakyat which has been practised over the years, although there have been variants in the number of days of the Dewan Rakyat sitting in the past.
Wan Junaidi noted the Yang di-Pertuan Agong determines the place, date and time of each session under Rule 11(1) and the Leader of the House, in this case Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, or deputy leader of the Lower House shall determine by giving 28 days’ notice of the commencement of each session.
Wan Junaidi who was deputy speaker of the Dewan Rakyat from 2008 to 2013 pointed out that there is nothing said about the number of days the Dewan Rakyat must sit for each session.
“The practice that I said allocated the number of days for each of the three sessions Dewan Rakyat sits in a year is only an administrative arrangement and obviously could be adjusted by the leader of the House (Dewan Rakyat) with the collaboration of the Speaker by giving the 28 days’ notice before the session begins.
“After due and long deliberation and the much considered advice by the Ministry of Health, Parliament may be held but must practise social distancing and other protocol.
“After consultation with the Dewan Rakyat, it was quite impossible to arrange the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and protocol of Covid-19 in the Dewan Rakyat without depriving some or a greater number of members of the House their rights under the Standing Orders of the House.
“The social distancing sitting arrangement would not be able to accommodate half the number of members of the House.
“Thus, the government reluctantly decided after discussions with the Speaker to have a one-day session to comply with the constitutional requirement,” Wan Junaidi who is Santubong MP disclosed in a statement.
Accordingly, he believed the decision by the federal government to have a one-day Parliament sitting is because it has every right to protect the lives of the members of the House, their staff, the Speaker and Parliament staff from the risk of Covid-19 and to avoid creating another cluster.
Wan Junaidi was responding to an article on Free Malaysia Today citing constitutional law expert Professor Emeritus Shad Saleem Faruqi as stating the one-day only sitting of Parliament on May 18 is “regrettable” even though it is in line with the Federal Constitution.
Shad Saleem had revealed the one-day sitting fulfils the criteria of Article 55(1) of the constitution, which states that the House shall reconvene not more than six months from the last sitting on December 5 last year.
Apart from that, he explained that Parliament can be called off as long as required only if an emergency is declared under Article 150.
Shad Saleem observed that Parliament did not sit for 22 months from May 15, 1969 to Feb 20, 1971 following the May 13 incident.
On the question of government bills including the Supply Bill and the accountability of the government to Parliament under Article 43(3) of the Federal Constitution as required under Article 101 of the Constitution, Wan Junaidi believed that the tabling of those bills may be delayed for various reasons under Article 103 of the Federal Constitution.
Nevertheless, he asserted that the federal government is duty bound to table the Supplementary Budget under Article 103 of the Federal Constitution.
Wan Junaidi pointed out that the Federal Constitution also does not spell out when it must be made; therefore, the government may table it in the Dewan Rakyat at any time after the spending.
He observed the economic stimulus package and the comprehensive economic stimulus package known as Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) will be tabled as Supplementary Budget in accordance with Article 103 of the Federal Constitution.
Wan Junaidi explained that the Supplementary Budget is a conventional practice in the Westminster model of government practised by most if not in all Commonwealth countries following the British tradition. — DayakDaily