KUALA LUMPUR – For the first time in 2021, the Dewan Rakyat convenes on Monday July 26 in a special meeting called during on ongoing emergency declared to curb the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen almost one million cases in the country.
The Dewan Rakyat will sit for five days, from July 26 to 29 and on Aug 2. The House will see members of parliament hear government statements on the emergency and measures to fight the pandemic as well as ministers addressing issues raised by the MPs.
The Dewan Negara will sit for three days, from Aug 3 to 5.
Standing Order 11(3) of the Dewan Rakyat provides that: “If, during an adjournment of the House, it is represented to Tuan Yang di-Pertua by the Prime Minister that the public interest requires that the House should meet at an earlier date than that to which the House was adjourned, Tuan Yang di-Pertua shall give notice thereof forthwith and the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice. The business set down for that day shall be appointed by the Prime Minister and notice thereof shall be circulated not later than the time of meeting.”
This Special Meeting of the Third Session of the 14th Parliament varies from the normal meetings because there is no official opening by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, debate on bills, and oral question-and-answer session.
According to the Order Paper for Monday uploaded in the Parliament official portal, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will make a statement on the National Recovery Plan (NPP), a strategy to exit the COVID-19 crisis.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob will make a statement on the proclamation of the emergency.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Adham Baba will make a statement on Malaysia’s action plan to tackle the pandemic; Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is the coordinating minister for the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme, on the vaccination programme, and Finance MInister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, on the economic aid packages.
The meeting will see all the MPs in attendance with adherence to the tight standard operating procedures (SOP) that have been put in place, such as undergoing a COVID-19 swab test, wearing double face masks and ensuring physical distancing.
These SOP also apply to the Parliament staff and journalists allowed to cover the meeting.
Parliament had not convened this year due to the emergency that was imposed on Jan 12 and to be in force until Aug 1 in a bid to check the fast-spreading COVID-19.
In June, however, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Riayatuddin Mustafa Billah Shah decreed that Parliament should convene as soon as possible to enable the MPs to discuss and debate the National Recovery Plan and the emergency ordinances.
The special meeting is also likely to see the tabling of the proclamation of emergency to cancel the parliamentary by-election for Gerik in Perak and the state by-election for Bugaya in Sabah.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan reportedly said that MPs can seek clarification and give their opinions at the special meeting and that the session will not be restricted to explanation from just one side.
Special meetings of Parliament have been held before, including on Jan 12, 2009 on the issue of Gaza; on July 23, 2014 on the MH17 aircraft incident and on Jan 26 and 27, 2016, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
The upcoming special meeting will be of added interest as Ismail Sabri will be attending as the deputy prime minister, a post to which he was appointed on July 7.
Also, at this meeting, four independent MPs including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, will attend as members of Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) which was officially registered on July 8.
Although a selected number of journalists will be allowed to be at Parliament House to cover the meeting, arrangements have been made for hybrid coverage as well and exclusive interviews with MPs via the Zoom online application.
Meanwhile, the First Meeting of the Fourth Session of the 14th Parliament is scheduled for 15 days, from Sept 6 to 30, and the Second Meeting, for 32 days, from Oct 25 to Dec 16. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong will open the Fourth Session.
The Third Session was concluded in December last year.