Media statement by MP for Batu Kawan and International Secretary for Wanita DAP, Kasthuri Patto on 29 June 2021:
On the International Day of Parliamentarism, Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yasin must rise above himself and his political survival to revive and restore parliamentary democracy amidst a trust deficit amongst Malaysians in the system especially in this extraordinary time in a pandemic
June 30th is marked as the International Day of Parliamentarism and was first initiated in 2018, a date chosen by the United Nations General Assembly in a resolution adopted on 22nd May, coinciding with the year 1889, where the International Parliamentary Union was formed, 130 years ago.
One may ask what is the significance of such a celebration and why it is important for Malaysians. It is a day to review the progress of our Dewan Rakyat and to include more women and youths in Parliament as well as the sustainability to adapt to new technologies in holding meetings. A day to remind us all what a fragile system we are all a part of and why we need to be architects and engineers to promote peace, human rights, gender equality, social justice and freedom.
It is an important day where a functioning Parliament becomes the cornerstone of democracy, justice, good governance, check and balance, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.
Unfortunately, in Malaysia, it has been more than 6 months that Parliament has convened as the Government of the day declared a state of Emergency in the country in January this year, halting the convening of the August House and the state assemblies.
These past few weeks has seen the King or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in his royal decree stressing for Parliament to convene as soon as possible. The reaction of the Executive has been lukewarm – hinting that Parliament will resume when the Emergency is lifted in August which may see a September sitting.
Let us not forget the one-day Parliament sitting on May 18th 2020 held grudgingly only to comply with Article 55 (1) of the Federal Constitution which states “The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall from time to time summon Parliament and shall not allow six months to elapse between the last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first meeting in the next session”.
For more than 6 months, there has been no avenue for legitimate elected lawmakers to voice out grievances of the people, to monitor Government expenditure, particularly in the recent announcement that RM150 billion will be utilised to aid and assist the people and businesses as the country is plagued not only with the virus but with endless lockdowns in an alphabet soup concoction as well for Parliamentary Select Committees to sit and deliberate on important matters of the country.
When Members of Parliament are not able to bring forth the voices of the people – men and women, young and old, the working class to the impoverished, the minority, migrants and refugees then these voices remain muted as well.
To the Prime Minister, Minister of Law and the Attorney General, the act of not listening to Members of Parliament is the same as not listening to the people, it is not listening to the country.
For 6 months the voices of the people and Parliamentarians have been muzzled in the August House – and this has caused irreversible damage to the growth and prosperity of a nation, in spite of a raging pandemic. Lives lost due to suicide, the increase in domestic violence, gender based and sexual violence, increase in cyberbullying and sexual harassment cases, unemployment and retrenchment, financial disaster faced by the middle class and the B40 groups, children suffering from “cabin fever” due to prolonged lockdowns, lacking not just digital amenities for online learning but nutritious food for growth, school bus and tourist bus drivers being chased by credit companies, irregularities in dispersing food baskets for families with no food to eat, small businesses closing down, the slow pace of the vaccination process and of late the absorption of doctors who are on contract basis to be permanent, and many other issues that must be answered in Parliament by the Government.
Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) was amongst the first NGO that issued a statement on the one-day Parliament sitting, on the democratic legitimacy of the Government, the cushioning from the impact of the pandemic and Government spending in the economic stimulus pandemic – on the erosion and threat to parliamentary democracy.
What happened that day had only a single agenda: the royal address by the King and a barring of all but state media from attendance.
The coming Parliament sitting in Malaysia this year must never be allowed to mirror what happened on May 18th last year.
On this International Day of Parliamentarism, the Government must ‘listen, listen, listen’ and heed the call of Malaysians including lawmakers for Parliament to sit as soon as possible to debate and to demand for answers and accountability of Government expenditures, check and balance, transparency, bills that are long overdue to be debated and passed and of the rule of law.
Perikatan Nasional wedged its way to be Government last March 2020 and today must reap what it has sowed. The Government must come as prepared to answer questions as us MPs who will come with questions, criticisms, suggestions and proposals when we meet in the Dewan Rakyat.
The Government has had more than 6 months to prepare answers to questions legislators have been asking through media statements, online meetings, online forums and discussions and in person meetings, and we don’t expect anything less than answers for the people.
“Do you want to be a leader that looks back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution?” Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand.