MP SPEAKS | Inspector-General of Police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani is wrong to say that MPs have no reason to be in Parliament as other important meetings have taken place when Parliament is not in session.
I refer to the statement by Acryl Sani yesterday, Aug 4, titled “Police received 206 reports relating to opposition MPs' gathering - IGP” which spells ignorance when he said: “Taking into consideration that on that date, no Parliament sitting would take place as it had been postponed and there were no reasons for the MPs to be at the Parliament, the police took necessary measures to prevent any gathering from being held.”
While he is right to say that there is no Dewan Rakyat sitting that day, he is grossly wrong to say that there was no reason for MPs to be in Parliament.
I have been called to be in the Dang Wangi district police station at 10am today to assist in the investigation on the gathering of Malaysian lawmakers after all access roads leading to Parliament had been blocked by the police and by the riot police.
I am compelled to correct this misleading statement of Acryl Sani by sharing some facts and figures with the IGP and those who advise him: that Parliament is very much alive, even when the Parliament is not in session.
On Monday, Aug 2, 2021, while MPs were barred from even entering the Parliament compound, the Public Accounts Committee held a meeting with the director-general of Health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and the Minister of Health Dr Adham Baba in Parliament itself!
The meeting was chaired by the MP for Ipoh Timor, Wong Kah Woh, and attended by MP for Kluang Wong Shu Qi, MP for Permatang Pauh Nurul Izzah Anwar, MP for Papar Ahmad Hassan and later joined by MP for Sibuti Lukanisman Awang, alongside parliamentary staff as well. If the DG of Health and the minister of health can attend a meeting in Parliament, which was earlier said to have a case of a superspreader of Covid-19, surely it is also safe for all MPs to convene for a meeting in the august House?
The previous Monday, July 26, 2021, after the Dewan Rakyat sitting ended, members of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Women, Children and Social Development met for a meeting in Parliament itself.
A quick check with any MP, parliamentary staff or even the Parliament enforcement officers, will reveal to the IGP that the Parliament is not only home to parliamentary sittings in the Upper House and Lower House, but is also a place where MPs have meetings with each other or with officers in Parliament, to organise forums, to meet diplomats, foreign dignitaries and ambassadors, as well as for the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Parliamentary Select Committee meetings to take place outside the Dewan Rakyat calendar.
In the past, under Pakatan Harapan, the then Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat Mohd Arif Mohd Yusof had organised meetings with ambassadors and foreign dignitaries, including hosting visiting foreign lawmakers and parliamentary support staff to engage with Malaysian lawmakers on parliamentary reforms, best practices and overall understanding and exchange of information between both nations - some when Parliament was in session and others when Parliament was not.
In his tenure of 22 months as House speaker, Ariff hosted 69 ambassadors and high commissioners in the Malaysian Parliament, alongside Malaysian lawmakers when Parliament was in and not in session. He mooted the first-ever “Speaker’s Lecture Series” consisting of forums on parliamentary reforms, engagements with CSOs, on human rights matters and good governance, with the aim to bridge the gap between the ‘rakyat’ and the ‘Dewan Rakyat’.
We even had Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Tuanku Muhris, the second son to the reigning Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, who is also the founding president of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), and who was part of the Speaker’s Lecture Series which were all held in Parliament, when Parliament was not in session, on weekends even.
In June 2019, the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and the Malaysian Parliament hosted a forum with government agencies for the Protection of Oceans and the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals SDG14 in the Malaysian Parliament - when Parliament was not in session too.
MPs today have their own shared rooms where small discussions can be held as well as functioning as a workstation for their officers, even when Parliament is not in session.
Even under the Perikatan Nasional government, MPs have been in Parliament for their Parliamentary Select Committee meetings, Standing Committee Meetings and other forums like the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly preparatory meetings.
Given all this information, IGP Acryl Sani has to be corrected on his stand that if Parliament is not in session, MPs need not be in Parliament.
Having been in office for exactly 92 days since he took his oath on May 4, 2021, I would expect the IGP to be well informed and to do his research before making statements based on hearsay.
MPs have a duty to the King, nation and people to be in Parliament, even when there is no sitting, to carry out their duties as gatekeepers of good governance, rule of law and as check and balance on government expenditures, including being the catalyst for parliamentary reforms.
KASTHURI PATTO is the Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and Wanita DAP international secretary.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.