BEWARE! PARLIAMENT MIGHT CATCH COVID-19!

By P Ramakrishnan

P Ramakrishnan: We don’t know what is PM Muhyiddin’s fear. Is he scared that MPs might catch COVID-19 or is he worried that Parliament – the building – would be infected by this virus? It has not been explained but he has decided that Parliament will not function as it should!

On May 18, there will be a meaningless, symbolic convening of Parliament with 222 Members of Parliament and 100 Senators converging on Parliament – COVID-19 or not!

People’s elected representatives, unlike on previous occasions, will not have a role to play. They cannot debate the government’s policies, they cannot scrutinize its expenditure, they cannot even call the government to account for its actions.

On May 18, strangely, MPs will have no duty to discharge, no obligation to represent their electorates, no compulsion to speak for the nation. In short, they will have nothing to do. But they will collect their parliamentary allowances nonetheless and go home!

Outstation members will have to arrive a day earlier which means transport, lodgings and cost of living allowances have to be provided inclusive of the various allowances on the day Parliament convenes. What would be the total cost for 222 MPs and 100 Senators who have to be paid similar perks for their attendance just for an hour or so for the May 18 session? So much expenditure has to be incurred for doing nothing! It is a criminal waste of public money! This cannot be justified under any circumstance.

The earlier announcement stated that the government bills would be tabled after the Agong’s speech. Now that won’t take place. There is only one agenda – the Agong’s speech. It will take an hour or so after which, Parliament will adjourn.

Muhyiddin’s legitimacy as Prime Minister will not be settled even though a motion of no confidence was earlier accepted by the Speaker. Now, this will not be put to the test. We will not know if he would have survived the vote of no confidence. It will be placed forever in the realm of speculation.

With the turn of events, we can safely assume that Muhyiddin indeed does not enjoy the majority support of MPs. Here was a golden opportunity for him to silence his critics and sceptics who question his right to be PM. But he does not want to risk his present pre-eminent position in permitting Mahathir’s motion of no confidence to be tabled. He must have seen the danger and decided to disallow that motion.

Not only that – his reputation was at stake as well. Mahathir has been adamant in claiming that at the material time when Muhyiddin was sworn in as PM he did not have the majority support with him. According to him, Dr Mahathir had that majority backing him contemporaneously. If Parliament was allowed to function as it should, there could be a possibility of Muhyiddin being exposed as a liar. That would be a terrible blow for his reputation and ego. He does not dare take that risk.

Muhyiddin has raised RM260 billion through loans for the stimulus package to kick-start the economy. We will never know how he raised that loan and from where he borrowed. We will never know whether the money is being spent wisely. He is not accountable to anyone! His position is like that of a dictator with wide and sweeping powers to do as he likes without being deterred. He has absolute power now.

Whether his policies are the best or the only one that is best for the country will not be debated simply because he has denied the MPs the opportunity to act as in a check and balance mechanism that Parliament always epitomises. Even if the policy is deemed to be a disaster, it will continue because he is not accountable to anyone.

Ultimately, this huge loan cannot be written off. It has to be settled. How is he going to find the money to do so? It is going to be a heavy burden for Malaysians having to be taxed to raise the funds. Yet, our MPs have no say whatsoever to speak on our behalf.

Muhyiddin stole our government – is he now set to destroy our parliamentary democracy?

We cannot give Muhyiddin a free hand to do as he pleases. It is going to be disastrous for the nation. He must be reined in. For this, the people’s participation is necessary and vital. They have to speak up! They have to take a stand!

That is why the online Petition launched by Aliran is so crucial. This provides for the people’s participation in the democratic process. So far, the Petition has secured 75,000 signatures. We hope to reach a million – or even more – with the partition of the political parties. With their huge membership and participation in the petition, we could have garnered that million very easily by now.

We sought their help in an article that I wrote on 9 May 2020 – Muhyiddin stole our government – don’t let him steal our Parliament!

In part, the article read:

“In the ultimate analysis, it is the political parties that can make a difference. They have the numbers, they have the mobilisation machinery, and they have the means and the capacity to call upon every member to sign this petition. These political parties have an obligation and a responsibility to round up their members to rally behind this petition and support it…

“All the political parties, PKR, Bersatu, Amanah, Warisan and the DAP, have a duty and an important role to play in this campaign. At the end of the day, we will know how well you fought the battle and how serious you were in defending our freedom and upholding our parliamentary democracy.”

It is doubtful if these political parties cared to get involved seriously in this campaign.

A million and more Malaysians calling for a meaningful sitting of Parliament would make a far greater impact on the fabric of society than 113 or 114 MPs shouting until their voices are hoarse. This is something the opposition politicians have failed to realize. It doesn’t appear that they really cared to send out a message to their members. Except for Lim Kit Siang, who publicly urged Malaysians to support the petition, no leaders from the other political parties cared to get involved or lend their support in this attempt to bring pressure on the government.

Still, it is not too late. Get your membership involved now. Let’s go for that million signatures. Go for goal. Let’s bring the moral weight of the nation to bear on Muhyiddin. Let’s not allow Malaysians to forget that this bunch of crooks stole our duly elected government and made a mockery of our Parliament.

If they get away with this, they will get away with everything else in the future. If they are allowed to steal our Parliament, what is there to prevent some unscrupulous civil servants and dastardly politicians from looting without a care in the world, just like Najib and his cronies did?

The people’s participation in the Petition shouldn’t end on May 18 but should continue. It may be an academic exercise after May 18 but the people’s outrage shouldn’t end on that day. What Muhyiddin did was outrageous and therefore the moment of this anger should carry on till GE 15. The Petition is one way to keep the fire burning. After May 18, this petition will no longer be tied down to the demand for a two-week sitting, but it will be a judgment on Muhyiddin on how he has abused our parliamentary tradition.

Always remember, “It is the right of a democratically elected Parliament to act in defence of our traditional liberties, and everything should be done to keep it that way.” Jeremy Corbyn

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

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