Parliament sits again today after a long hiatus but there has not been any update on the status of Emergency Ordinance the the Government has previously declared.
“What happens to the Emergency?,” New Sin Yew, a lawyer attached to legal firm AmerBon Advocates, asked.
“One would expect the Parliament to debate the proclamation of emergency (POE) and any ordinance made once it re-opens. Voting should take place to approve or annul the Emergency under Art 150(3). This isn’t happening.
“However, the Government has different ideas. When the agenda for Parliamentary business was released, it only allocated time for ‘Statements by Ministers’.
“Under the Dewan Rakyat’s Standing Orders, the government decides on the order of business. The government’s business takes precedence over other issues,” New said in a lengthy Twitter post yesterday.
Rather than tabling the POE and the ordinances as motions for them to be debated and voted upon, he noted the Government is instead opting to “brief’ the Parliament, which will be for the entire five days.
Because there is no voting at the sitting, the Parliament cannot decide if the Emergency should remain in force or be revoked. Effectively, the Government is forcing a status quo.
According to New, the manoeuvre of using the Standing Orders contravenes the spirit of Article 150(3), which acts as a safeguard, providing Parliament with a supervisory function over the Government’s emergency powers.
“The Standing Orders were made under Article 62(1) of the Constitution which regulates Parliamentary procedure, stating that: ‘Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and of Federal Law, each House of Parliament shall regulate its own procedure.’
“Article 62(1) clearly subjects the Standing Orders to the Constitution. The Orders cannot be read to disable Parliament from exercising its functions set out in the Federal Constitution,” he said.
On this basis, New noted that the government’s use of the Standing Orders, to prevent Parliament from carrying out its functions under Article 150(3), is “patently unconstitutional”.
He said: “In most cases, there is little dispute between Parliament and the Government of the day because the latter controls the former with majority support. It is a flaw in the design of the Westminster system that Parliament merely acts as a ‘rubber stamp’ of the Government.”
Presently, however, majority support for the Prime Minister is in question, and Parliament could very well disapprove of the Emergency.
He added that the present political climate differs from previous ones where states of emergency were called by governments that enjoyed clear majority.
According to New, in 1964, Tunku Abdul Rahman moved a motion to seek Parliament’s support for the Emergency called in the wake of the Konfrontasi with Indonesia.
Tun Abdul Razak also moved a bill in 1966 on the Emergency in Sarawak to test parliamentary support for the same, he said.