By Hafiz Hassan
LEGALLY, the Jan 11 Proclamation of Emergency [PU(A) 7/2021] does not ‘lock down’ Parliament. A proclamation is what it is: a declaration. Nothing more, nothing less.
It is the ensuing Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 (EEPO)[PU(A) 12/2021] that did it, and still does. Even so, it is not the whole of the EEPO but section 14. The section reads as follow:
(1) For so long as the emergency is in force—
(a) the provisions relating to the summoning, proroguing and dissolution of Parliament in the Federal Constitution shall not have effect; and
(b) the Parliament shall be summoned, prorogued and dissolved on a date as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong thinks appropriate.
(2) Any meeting of the Parliament which has been summoned before the coming into operation of this Ordinance but has not been held is cancelled.
Similarly, it is section 15 which prevents the sitting of the State Legislative Assembly (SLA) of each state.
So, what does it take to reconvene Parliament and SLA of each state? I am of the view that an Emergency (Essential Powers) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 that removes or deletes sections 14 and 15 of EEPO has to be promulgated and gazetted.
A section of the Amendment Ordinance will state that section 14 of EEPO is deleted. Another section will state that section 15 of EEPO is deleted.
It is as simple as that. The proclamation and the EEPO may remain and lapse after August 1.
Now, Parliament was last adjourned on Dec 17 last year, as opposed to being prorogued – the latter is by proclamation and there seems to be no proclamation to that effect. It was in fact adjourned to March 8 as published on Parliament’s website before the date was removed following section 14 of EEPO.
With section 14 deleted and no longer a barrier to Parliament being convened, the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders (DRSO) can then step in. DRSO No. 11(2) requires the Leader or Deputy of the House – the Leader being the prime minister – to determine at least 28 days before reconvening the Dewan Rakyat (DR), i.e. the dates on which the DR shall next meet after section 14 of EEPO is deleted. The prime minister may vary the dates to meet.
Even so, if the prime minister represents to the Speaker that the public interest requires that the DR should meet at an earlier date, the Speaker must give notice forthwith and the DR must meet at the time stated in such notice. The business set down for that day must be appointed by the prime minister and notice thereof must be circulated not later than the time of meeting [DRSO No. 11(3)]
What is particularly important is, after the deletion of section 14 of EEPO, the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) of the DR can meet to consider and deliberate on amendments, if necessary, to the DRSO to allow for hybrid proceedings. The Chairperson of the SOC is the Speaker and there will be no reason to say that the Speaker’s hands are tied in calling for the SOC to meet.
It is right to say that the DRSO needs to be looked at if amendments are necessary. The SOC will report to the House if amendments are necessary.
So, the deletion of sections 14 and 15 of EEPO is a first step. With respect, it can be done immediately, not as soon as possible, following which notice of the much-awaited sitting of Parliament can be issued – 28-day notice, if not earlier.
In the meantime, the SOC can meet.
I would agree with the joint statement that it shouldn’t be September or October. September is not soon when a 28-day notice, if not earlier, can be issued immediately after section 14 of EEPO is deleted, which can be immediate as well.
I say that there are formalities to be followed to the call for Parliament to convene. The ball is in the prime minister’s court.
In a Westminster-style of government, the prime minister is a central figure.