Anwar insists debates be allowed during budget winding-up speeches

25-Nov-2020 Intellasia | Malaysiakini | 6:51 AM Print This Post

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has protested Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azisan Harun’s format for the Budget 2021 winding-up speeches by ministers, characterising it as “unparliamentary”.

This morning, Azhar announced that ministers will each get 20 minutes to answer questions posed to their respective ministries. Given the time limit, ministers will present an “executive summary” of their answers and the rest will be uploaded onto the Parliament website.

Sittings in this Parliament session have been shortened to end at 2pm. Only a total of 80 MPs are allowed in the House at a time as a Covid-19 precautionary measure.

Anwar (Harapan-Port Dickson) requested for the time limit to be extended to allow for MPs to engage ministers in debates.

He also proposed that the 80-MP cap be lifted.

“I believe the speaker knows that the role of Parliament, especially during minister answering time, (is to allow) debates, interruptions, disputations, and questions. It is impossible for this to happen in 20 minutes.

“Please give some leeway so that more than 80 MPs can enter the hall and more time can be allowed to enable interruptions.

“Or else, Parliament does not work in this manner (if) the minister just gives an executive answer with no questions asked, no time (for interruptions) and if the rest of the answers can be read at home,” he said.

“This is not the spirit that should be respected by Parliament,” he stressed.

A string of opposition MPs echoed Anwar’s call and urged Azhar to reconsider the rules.

After much back and forth, the speaker said he will call for a meeting to discuss the matter with either the chiefs or whips of all parties.

He also questioned why these requests were not communicated to him prior to today’s session.

However, the speaker insisted that today’s winding-up speeches by the prime minister’s Department, International Trade and Industry Ministry, Defence Ministry, and Public Works Ministry will proceed as planned.

For previous budgets, ministries typically took about an hour to present their full winding-up speeches.

Former health minister disputes reasoning

During today’s exchange, de facto Law minister Takiyuddin Hassan defended the new format, saying the need for a shorter sitting was based on advice from health ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“This is not an excuse. We are not simply giving inappropriate reasons.

“The health ministry says a longer Parliament (session) is riskier, according to the director-general,” he said.

Takiyuddin (below) assured that all winding-up speech texts will be promptly uploaded in full onto the Parliament website and be included in the Dewan Rakyat Hansard.

Despite his explanation, Dzulkefly Ahmad (Harapan-Kuala Selangor) disputed the need for such rules as Covid-19 precautions had already been taken.

The former health minister pointed out that all MPs were already tested for Covid-19 using an RT-PCR test every two weeks.

Not only was the House regularly sanitised, but MPs were also seated physically distanced from each other. Each MP is further separated from each other by a plastic screen.

“When a minister speaks they are (seated) very far away and in a hall that has been sanitised.

“I dispute these limitations and why a minister is only given 20 minutes (to speak).

“This is not based on science or evidence-based medicine,” Dzulkefly said.

Teo Nie Ching (Harapan-Kulai) similarly questioned the logic behind the time limit and shortened parliamentary sittings.

“If people can work eight hours a day, why can’t an MP? We should be serving the people. We come here for four hours a day and get paid a full day’s allowance.

“I think this is making a very bad example. If we say (MPs) should not work more than four hours a day, I hope this principle can be applied for the rakyat,” she remarked.


Category: Malaysia

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