After Syed Saddiq’s criticism of 80-MP limit in Dewan Rakyat, Annuar says other lawmakers can follow video streaming

(MMO) – Federal lawmakers who cannot sit in the Dewan Rakyat hall due to the new Covid-19 precaution of an 80-MP cap would still be able to view the debates through video streaming, Ketereh MP Tan Sri Annuar Musa said today.

Annuar, who is also Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general and Federal Territories minister, said there should be clearer explanations on the new restriction issued by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker today.

“Should be explained so that it can be understood that although only 80 persons can be in the hall at any one time, MPs can still follow proceedings through the video and close circuit system facility in the work space or offices around the Parliament building,” he said on Twitter.

Annuar was responding to Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s tweet on the new Dewan Rakyat rules which only allow 80 out of Malaysia’s 222 MPs to be physically present inside the Dewan Rakyat hall at any one time.

Syed Saddiq had on his Twitter wrote: “Team @ParlimenDigital can help. All 222 MPs should carry out their duties in full. The session in May was only for one day. For the November session, don’t limit MP duties to just 80 members only” while also indicating that there will be a way when there’s a way.

Earlier today, the Dewan Rakyat Speaker issued new rules that were agreed to by all party whips, such as cutting short Dewan Rakyat proceedings to 2pm instead of the usual 5.30pm for the remaining sittings this year (November 9 to December 15), which will result in the Budget debates being cut short from the initial 89 hours and 30 minutes to just 66 hours.

Under the new rules also applicable to the Budget 2021 tabling tomorrow, only 80 MPs comprising 41 government MPs and 39 Opposition MPs will be allowed in the Dewan Rakyat hall at any one time with special entry passes to be issued.

As for which of the MPs can enter the Dewan Rakyat hall, this will be decided by their own political parties, with the special passes to be given to Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan to coordinate among government MPs and to Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul to coordinate among Opposition and Independent MPs.

The other MPs who are not part of the 80 MPs will be able to record their attendance at two specific entry points in Parliament.

Under the rules, all the MPs — including those not part of the 80 MPs with special passes — will be allowed in during voting time involving division votes.

For this, the Dewan Rakyat Speaker said a bell will be rung for two minutes, followed by a 10-minute break, before it is rung again for two minutes, as was done in the last meeting in August to call MPs from other parts of the Parliament compound to come to the hall to vote.

In the statement on the new Dewan Rakyat rules today, the Speaker however did not clarify if the other MPs without special passes would be able to follow the proceedings “live” through video streaming or if they would be still be able to directly participate in debates virtually such as by video-conferencing methods, and did not say if voice votes would still be taken or whether only division votes would be taken under the new rules.

While Annuar today sought to clarify the situation regarding the limit on MPs in the Dewan Rakyat hall, he was not one of the party whips listed as having participated in the meeting.

In a lengthy statement on Facebook, Syed Saddiq said that any excuses by the government to not carry out Parliament proceedings digitally was unacceptable since the Covid-19 situation has been going on for almost a year, pointing out that the youth-led initiative Parlimen Digital was able to successfully pull off online proceedings in July involving 222 youth representatives.

Syed Saddiq also quizzed whether MPs are not required to carry out their work in the Dewan Rakyat, referring to the May meeting that was already cut short to just one day and deferred, suggesting that only 80 MPs would be working in November while the salaries continue to be paid to MPs.

“All 222 MPs should be given the space to be involved in each session, ask questions, cast votes. But, this time, the duty will be obstructed. Don’t give many excuses to not conduct Parliament sessions virtually,” he said, pointing out that there would be many excuses if one is unwilling but there would be many methods and much effort put in if one is willing.

The government has so far resisted suggestions to have the Dewan Rakyat proceedings run virtually and digitally to overcome any concerns of Covid-19 spreading.