All Parliamentary Committees Should Be Fully Functional and Allowed to Operate Virtually

We, the undersigned civil society groups, opined that the 5 days of the Special Sittings of the Dewan Rakyat on this coming July 26 are not enough to discuss various issues of the rakyat, especially involving the COVID-19 pandemic which have been delayed for 7 months since its last sitting last year.

  1. We urge that all Standing Committees and Special Select Committees in both Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara be allowed to fully operate as usual in carrying out their check and balance functions in a more intensive manner on all Executive policies.
  2. In order to optimize the operation of the Committees with the full attendance of their members and secretariat, the provisions under the Standing Orders should be amended and interpreted to enable proceedings to be held online. This method is not only to ensure security and safety from the COVID-19 threat, but also to avoid inconvenience for Committee members among MPs from East Malaysia who may have to go through compulsory quarantine after returning from the Committee meetings in Kuala Lumpur. It will also reduce any unnecessary inconveniences for public officials and staff of ministries and agencies in taking the time to attend Committee meetings in Parliament.
  3. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should immediately review and investigate all expenditure by the government during the Emergency 2021 period effective since the beginning of this year, especially when the gazetted Emergency Ordinances 2021 allow the Prime Minister to spend the Consolidated Fund and the National Trust Fund (KWAN) without obtaining Parliamentary approval.
  4. The Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation should convene an immediate meeting to review the implementation of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Program (NCIP) and measures regarding the management of the COVID-19 public health crisis. The Committee must also act proactively to hold engagement sessions and consultations with all relevant stakeholders to find the best solution to combat the pandemic.
  5. The Select Committee on Women and Child Affairs and Social Development should assess the financial, nutritional and psychological needs of households during Movement Control Order (MCO). The effectiveness of the efforts carried out by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community (KPWKM) and related agencies in helping to meet the needs of these vulnerable and affected groups must also be examined.
  6. The Select Committee on Finance and Economy should immediately assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of the rakyat and the country. This includes the impact on the B40 and M40 vulnerable groups who have lost their income and jobs. Domestic direct investment (DDI) and foreign direct investment (FDI) are no exception. An open hearing must be held with all stakeholders among industry players and rakyat to revive the economy of the rakyat and the country.
  7. The Special Select Committee on Education should examine and evaluate all education policies that have been implemented by the government on educational institutions since the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the National Recovery Plan (NRP) were implemented. Policies such as Home-based Teaching and Learning (PdPR) which have undergone several phases of implementation, including the latest decision regarding the opening of schools in early September must be carefully reviewed.

Therefore, it should be noted that the Parliamentary Committees as a core component of a legislative body in a democratic country cannot be denied their independence and should play an active role in improving national policies and legislation, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This statement is initiated by the Seed Community for a Professional Parliament, a network of individuals active in civil society organisations, think tanks and academia working towards a professional Parliament that facilitates healthy policy competition between parties.

Signed by:

  1. Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)
  3. Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)
  4. Persatuan Pengundi Muda (UNDI18)
  5. Institute for Political Reform and Democracy (REFORM)
  6. Bait Al-Amanah