The Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, should have asked Parliament for a consensus to amend the relevant laws to suspend the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election on Dec. 5 in view of Covid-19 pandemic instead of asking the Yang di Pertuan Agong to declare an emergency in Batu Sapi to suspend the by-election.
The Election Commission announced the nomination and polling dates for the Batu Sapi by-election on 13th October, which means that the Muhyiddin government had 41 days to ask Parliament to amend the Constitution and the relevant election laws to suspend the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election before Nomination on Nov. 23 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why did the Muhyiddin Cabinet procrastinate on the issue until last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting five days before the Batu Sapi by-election nomination on Nov. 23 to consider the matter?
Even on November 18, when the matter was raised at the Cabinet meeting, there was time to rush through the emergency legislation to amend the Constitution and the relevant election laws to suspend the Batu Sapi by-election because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Senate could have been summoned to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday, November 19, to pass the necessary legislative amendments after they had been passed by the Dewan Rakyat.
Why was this avenue not fully explored?
Is the Prime Minister prepared to appear before the Dewan Rakyat to explain the rationale for by-passing Parliament in suspending the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election?
The message the Muhyiddin Cabinet wants to convey appears to be that its first choice is to advise the Yang di Pertuan to declare a state of emergency to deal with current issues, instead of using the method of parliamentary negotiation to amend the relevant laws to suspend the Batu Sapi by-election because of Covid-19 epidemic.
This is a setback for democracy in Malaysia as with the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular because of the third wave of the epidemic as a result of the Sabah state general election, I have no doubt that any necessary legislative amendments, whether to the Constitution or the election laws, to suspend the Batu Sapi by-election because of the Covid-19 epidemic, would not face much opposition in Parliament.
In fact, DAP had suggested that all political parties should reach a consensus to let Warisan win the Batu Sapi by-election seat uncontested to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the previous Warisan Member of Parliament, Liew Vui Keong but the only political party which had not declared its position was the Prime Minister’s Bersatu.
The message of the Muhyiddin government is crystal-clear: Its first choice is for a declaration of emergency by the Yang di Pertuan Agong and not to seek a remedy through Parliament!
Will this be the attitude of the government with regard to the 2021 Budget?
Members of Parliament have two choices when the 2021 Budget comes up for a Second Reading vote next Thursday, 26th November 2020:
Firstly, to force a showdown on Thursday whether to accept or reject the 2021 Budget; or secondly, to fully explore the avenues available in the parliamentary process by proposing amendments during the Committee Stage of the 2021 Budget to the most objectionable provisions like the RM85.5 million revival of the Special Affairs Department (JASA) to carry out negative propaganda campaign for the government, and then for a definitive vote to be made during the Third Reading of the 2021 Budget on December 15, 2020.
What will happen next Thursday?