COMMENT | Constitution: Cabinet can't unilaterally set Parliament agenda

Raman Letchumanan

Modified 19 Jul 2021, 2:28 am

COMMENT | After months of unnecessary political wrangling amid the raging pandemic, the prime minister, as the minister authorised by the cabinet, finally called for the Parliament to convene on 26 July.

However, this immediately spooked the opposition MPs and some from the ruling coalition when the government issued a five-day schedule consisting of only briefings from ministers. Contrary to the issues decreed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, it seems the cabinet acted as the sole authority to decide on a Parliament agenda.

My contention is, as argued based on the Federal Constitution, only the Parliament can decide its agenda. In the case of the Dewan Rakyat, only the king and MPs have that exclusive authority.

By convention, the members of a meeting collectively decide on its agenda. That is why the first order of business is the adoption of agenda. The meeting cannot proceed until the agenda is adopted by consensus or a majority vote.

Nevertheless, there are so-called standing matters or compulsory issues that have to be addressed by the meeting. For example, in a body corporate, this is detailed in its constitution or memorandum of incorporation, such as the election of office-bearers, finance, operations etc. Similarly, there are standing matters prescribed by the Federal Constitution, which takes precedence, and no one can delay or cop-out these items.

It is trite that our Federal Constitution upholds parliamentary democracy and rule of law. But this is conveniently side-stepped by partisan considerations.

The three pillars of democracy namely legislature, judiciary and

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