The first parliament session of Perikatan Nasional (PN) government will be held next Monday, 18 May 2020, for only one day with no question and answer sessions, no motion, no debate, and no vote. Since its infamous power grab, Covid-19 has been used as a grand excuse by the PN government for not holding any parliament session or parliamentary committee meetings to what a proper democracy should be.
If Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and PN government are confident of the majority support and unafraid to face the check-and-balance by the Opposition Members of Parliament, there are many technology solutions available to allow parliament to operate meaningfully – virtually, physically or a mix of both. Standing Order can be amended to allow this if needed.
Why did the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin, who himself has been promoting technology use in contact tracing, testing facilities, and patient care, was extraordinarily silent on advocating the use of technology to proceed with the Parliament sitting?
In fact, no rocket science is needed to operate parliament virtually. Zoom, Google, Microsoft and other technological companies, already have existing solutions. Parliament in many countries have started to operate virtually (fully or partially) not only in the developed countries like UK, Canada, Belgium, France, New Zealand and Luxembourg but also in the developing countries like Poland, Maldives, Brazil, Angola and many others.
With the current and available technologies, there are a thousand and one ways to allow the parliament to continue to function as a check-and-balance mechanism for the executive branch of power during the Covid 19 pandemic.
The impact of Covid-19 is unprecedented. Rakyat need all it takes for their safety, security of livelihood and health issues to be addressed by the Government, albeit not the one they voted for. This sitting is critical for the people, any given government would have the good sense and responsibility to the people to convene and debate what is the next course of action with the interest of the people at heart. Are we not, first and foremost, the people’s representatives to voice their utmost concerns, and Parliament is where we convene?
Experts around the world have mostly agreed that the world will have to face with Covid-19 new normal until a vaccine is found and optimistically that will still be about 12-18 months away. Will PN government continue to use Covid-19 as an excuse to avoid proving their majority in the parliament as well as facing check-and-balance from the opposition? Or will we see immediate technological solution from Khairy Jamaluddin so that Covid-19 can no longer be an excuse to run a proper parliament sitting?