Preparations needed before Parliament reconvenes

Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Minister and Santubong parliament member Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar speaking to the press at a press conference at Santubong Pariament service centre, Kuching. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

KUCHING: Veteran parliamentarian and former Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar supports the reconvening of Parliament but emphasises that certain preparations have to be made first.

He said the Parliament Select Committee on Standing Orders and Rules must convene to review the Standing Orders and Rules and make the necessary amendments, in order for a sitting to satisfy Standing Orders of the august House as well as the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) enforced by the Health Ministry.

“If Parliament is called to convene a meeting, without the Standing Orders and Rules amended, then how is Parliament going to satisfy the SOP that MoH is going to enforce?” he said when contacted on Thursday (June 17).

He was commenting on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong recently calling for Parliament to be reconvened as soon as possible.

Wan Junaidi outlined the three main areas which needed to be addressed as seating and the right to speak, immunity under Articles 62 and 63 of the Federal Constitution so MPs have equal protection under the law, and designing an arrangement for voting in cases where a decision requires such voting.

Pointing out that Parliament has 222 members allocated to 222 seats the Santubong MP said all the official roles a member played in Parliament during a session were from those seats.

He said a hybrid approach for Parliament was not possible as the Standing Orders enacted in 1956 and amended in 1959 did not have provisions for teleconferencing and modern technology accommodation.

“To split the MPs – some in the Chamber, some in the office, and some in the Parliament lobby – to satisfy the MoH SOP is possible physically but doubtful under the law and under the Standing Orders and Rules,” he said.

He also raised the matter of MPs’ immunity in debates and discussions in the Chamber under Articles 62 and 63 of the Federal Constitution.

“Remember the oft quoted ‘if you dare repeat what you say in the lobby’ on defamatory matters – the indication that only the debates and discussions of MPs in the Chambers are protected.

“So what happens to those outside the Chambers? If they are not protected, then we have two classes of MPs in Parliament – one group in the Chamber is protected under Articles 62 and 63 while the others outside the chamber are not,” said Wan Junaidi, who Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister.

He emphasised that MPs who were not inside the Chamber were not protected by the privileges and rights afforded by Articles 62 and 63 of the Federal Constitution, adding that their rights were only found in Article 10 just like any ordinary citizen.

In addition, he pointed out that under Article 62(5), an MP who was not in the Chamber could not vote.

“Then, Article 62(5) has to be amended, and amendment of the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority,” he said.

He stressed that Parliament has the right to regulate its internal affairs but should not blatantly abandon its own laws and Standing Orders.

“So, we have to give time for Parliament to come up with ways to overcome the problem,” he said.