Press Statement: Convene Parliament Now!

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE. 16 April 2020.

 

We Cannot Allow Parliament to be Sidestepped in Responding to Covid Pandemic 

 

Over the last few days, in the face of the pandemic, Malaysians have been receiving a portion of the cash aid promised by the unelected Perikatan Nasional government. Individuals or families will be receiving RM1000 or less this month, depending on their income and marital status. 

A total of RM10 billion has been budgeted for the direct cash aid for Malaysians in need of assistance in facing the pandemic.

The RM10 billion is part of the RM250 billion economic stimulus package announced by the government on the 27 of March 2020. Having realised that the government had failed to consider the wider economic impact the movement control order (MCO) would have on the small medium enterprises (SMEs), the Prime Minister, a week later announced a further RM10 billion injection to help SMEs cope with the pandemic.

While we acknowledge that the cash aid is urgently needed to ease the burden shouldered by many Malaysians affected by this pandemic, a critical issue related to the process around the formulation of the stimulus package remains unaddressed. 

The package was formulated without Parliamentary approval and is currently being disbursed without oversight and external scrutiny. This unprecedented move by the unelected government raises serious concerns on accountability and transparency. Many parties have urged PM Muhyiddin to call for an emergency sitting to debate the enormity of public funds announced to curb the damage of the pandemic, all of which have fallen on deaf ears. This is understandably so as the new coalition may be avoiding a Parliamentary session that could rattle their very legitimacy.

The spirit of democracy which is embedded in Parliament being a place for checks and balances must never be usurped by any kind of emergency measure.

The Prime Minister had in his Prihatin Package (Plus) statement stated that the government will table the stimulus package as part of an additional supply bill when Parliament convenes in May for approval. This is an awkward statement to make as much of the monies would have already been disbursed and used. The process of seeking a mandate then rings hollow, and puts the institution of Parliament in a bad light.

Separation of powers between the executive and legislature is also a very important principle that is being sidestepped by the illegitimate government. The executives are dishing out billions of ringgit and setting policies without going through parliamentary process. More questions arise such as where is the source of the funds for the economic stimulus package coming from? What are the implementation methods? How do we prevent leakages? How many contracts have been given out and to whom these contracts are awarded to? Is the tender process being followed? These are some of the serious issues that need to be presented and debated in Parliament.

The current covid19 pandemic cannot be a reason for our leaders to chuck the principles of accountability and transparency. These principles cannot be ignored even in a time of a pandemic. This is especially true when the world has developed so much today in terms of technological advances. Virtual parliament and special virtual select committees could be set up using high end technological equipment to convene Parliament. There is no reason for the government not do to this.

C4 Center calls upon the government to urgently convene a Parliamentary sitting and discuss the stimulus package and other pressing issues related to the pandemic. The government can take a leaf from our neighbor Singapore which presented all its three separate budgets dealing with the Covid pandemic, themed “Unity, Resilience and Solidarity”, in  Parliament for approval even in emergency times.

If the PN government wanted to build the trust of the people, they should start by respecting the central pillars of a democratic government and respect the need for a clear legislative mandate. 

Convene Parliament now! 

 

Released by:

Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center)