PETALING JAYA: As the debate over whether the Dewan Rakyat should resume continues, several civil society groups this evening called for Malaysia to emulate countries which have conducted virtual parliament sittings.
The groups admitted that preparing for a virtual sitting was a “challenging task”.
“But the Dewan Rakyat can take a leaf from the practices of other countries that conduct virtual parliamentary proceedings,” they said in a joint statement.
The statement was signed by Bait Al-Amanah, Bersih 2.0, ENGAGE, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, the Institute for Political Reform and Democracy and Pusat Komas.
The country, they said, could also seek advice from eminent legal experts on the ways to overcome challenges relating to cost, logistics and existing laws.
They went on to say that with regard to the issue of calling for a parliamentary sitting, there was no provision in the Federal Constitution that prohibits virtual proceedings.
While the Federal Constitution was “silent” on the matter, the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat need to be updated to allow for virtual proceedings.
Alternatively, they said, an initial sitting could be held in the usual venue, but with only the necessary quorum and one that is balanced to be present for the tabling and approval of the relevant rule amendments.
The Dewan Rakyat needs only 26 MPs to be present for a quorum.
“A further alternative is to include the necessary provisions into the Emergency Ordinance to enable virtual or semi-virtual parliamentary sittings,” they said, adding that the key factor in all these options was to secure the prior consent of all parties.
They also said the first step to have Parliament reconvened was for all MPs and leaders to meet and discuss the matter.
“A paralysed Parliament is a paralysed democracy. Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Last Monday, Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Harun was quoted as saying that it was up to the government to decide whether Parliament could sit.
Azhar was apparently responding to his deputy, Azalina Othman Said, who had earlier said that the lockdown should not cripple democracy.