Reopening Parliament a cluster risk, and many problems if done online, says Home Minister

(MMO) – Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said that the reopening of Parliament through online sittings would come with its own set of problems, and that not reopening it for physical meetings could help prevent a cluster of Covid-19 cases from forming, a news report said today.

In a report by media outlet Astro Awani, Hamzah highlighted that more than 1,000 individuals would be involved if Parliament were to reopen physically.

“There are certain groups, politicians who say Parliament must be opened. I want to give an example, if Parliament is opened, let’s say, one month, usually Monday to Thursday consecutively, several persons are there, there are members of Parliament, officers, government officers, Parliament officers and staff, cafeteria, drivers and others.

“More than 1,000, I wish to show, most of these would become a hotspot. If we control this, then there would be that cluster (Parliament),” he was quoted as saying during a press conference today by Astro Awani.

Hamzah, who is also secretary-general of ruling party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, appeared to take a potshot at Opposition party PKR over its party congress being held online this week.

He claimed that this meant that PKR did not dare to hold its national party congress physically such as during Parliament meetings.

“It (PKR) also does not dare to carry out meetings as per the demands to open Parliament. So if it does not dare to open, it does it virtually. So if we want to open Parliament virtually, there are many other problems.

“How to do it virtually? Many, government officers, in the thousands, this is what we have to think about, if can why not but it involves perkiraan (planning) for what is done must have proper studies. Don’t follow emotions,” he was also quoted as saying.

Today was the first day of PKR’s three-day 15th National Congress which is being held fully online, with today kicking off with the women’s wing’s congress and tomorrow being the youth wing’s congress.

According to national news agency Bernama, the fully online congress — the first-ever in PKR’s 22-year history — will see 2,400 PKR leaders and PKR delegates attending through the video-conferencing service Zoom from their homes.

Bernama said the national PKR congress was initially scheduled to be held in a hybrid manner — involving both physical and online attendance in Shah Alam, Selangor, but was changed to the fully online model due to the total lockdown nationwide from June 1 to June 14.

Parliament includes the Dewan Rakyat which has 222 MPs when all positions are taken up (but with this number lower than 222 currently due to the suspensions of by-elections during the Emergency nationwide).

During the Emergency that took effect from January 11 and is set to last until August 1 if not extended or ended earlier, Parliament meetings have been suspended — which means new laws or legal amendments cannot be debated on and passed by MPs for now, and which would temporarily suspend an avenue for MPs to carry out their roles in holding the government accountable and to act as checks and balances.

Last year when Parliament sittings were deferred amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysian youths had organised Parlimen Digital with 222 youth representatives to show that it is possible for the government to hold Parliament sittings online.

Lawyers and MPs had last year also told Malay Mail that Parliamentary proceedings in Malaysia can easily be conducted online through video-conferencing without even having to amend the Federal Constitution, stressing that it is not “rocket science” but simply a matter of whether there is political will to do so

Earlier today, PKR adviser Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had during a speech at the 15th PKR Women’s Congress urged for Parliament to reconvene, in order to address problems affecting families and the public such as domestic violence and sexual harassment which had worsened during the movement control orders.

“Because of this, the Rakyat’s issues cannot be debated thoroughly. Besides these issues I have just mentioned, economic disparity, the public’s mental health, domestic violence, children and wives dying in the hands of their caretakers and husbands, and the issue of education system which constantly becomes the centre of attention without a proper solution from the government,” the former women, family and community development minister had said of matters that need to be addressed in Parliament.