I cautiously welcome the announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on 16 February that all elected representatives regardless of political divide will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine under Phase 1 of Malaysia’s National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
Upon completion of Phase 1 of the said immunisation programme, there is no longer any reason to withhold or suspend parliamentary sittings. Phase 1 will run from February 26 until April.
According to Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin, of the 500,000 Pfizer-Biontech vaccines to be administered in Phase 1, 300,000 will be reserved for medical frontliners, and that the other 200,000 vaccines would be allocated for non-medical frontliners such as security personnel, welfare officials and elected representatives.
I’m glad that the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee had recognised the nature of work of elected representatives, both government and opposition, which includes frequent meeting with people, to walk the ground, and extensive travelling away from one’s constituency for parliamentary or state assembly sittings.
With the vaccination, YBs would be able to safely carry out his or her duties to their constituents without the need to worry about getting infected by COVID-19 or unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus to others.
Even if the country is in an emergency right now, it doesn’t mean parliament cannot sit at all. Article 150(5) of the Malaysian Constitution states that while a Proclamation of Emergency is in force, Parliament may make laws with respect to any matter, if it appears to Parliament that the law is required by reason of the emergency.
The declaration of a state of emergency should not put democracy and rule of law at peril, and therefore parliamentary sittings must go on even during the state of emergency.
There are many agendas that are overdue, such as the tabling of the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) and perhaps even the tabling of a supplementary budget for 2021 to deal with the increase of Covid-19 cases.
Elected representatives bring the voices of the people up to the government and deal with matters that affect the people the most.
This ensures that democracy is alive. Matters essential to the foundation of the country must go on, and the check on the executive by the legislature must go on.
The people are getting angry that 222 MPs are still having their monthly salaries despite not having to attend any parliament sessions.
Suspending parliamentary sittings will do no good to the country. Since now all MPs are to receive the vaccine and become immune to COVID-19, then there is no more reason to shut down parliament.
To allay any concerns, all parliamentary officers and assistants to elected representatives attending parliament should also be given the vaccine.
I look forward to parliament reconvening so that I can continue my work in raising the voices of my constituents in parliament.
Chan Foong Hin
Member of Parliament for P.172 Kota Kinabalu