By Noah Lee
The Malaysia prime minister’s office on Monday announced that the lower house will meet for five days beginning at the end of July followed by the senate meeting for three days in August, after the king made his third call for parliament to reconvene as soon as possible.
The lower house is to meet from July 26 to 29 and on Aug. 2, while the senate is to meet from Aug. 3 to 5. Parliament has been suspended for nearly six months during the COVID-19-based national emergency set to expire Aug. 1.
“The meeting is to explain to members of parliament about the National Recovery Plan and amend all legislation and rules to allow for a Parliamentary sitting to be done in a hybrid mode,” the statement said.
The hybrid mode would allow parliament to meet with some members in attendance and the rest participating online.
On June 29, King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah said he believes parliament must meet soon so lawmakers can debate legislation related to the emergency declaration, according to National Palace spokesman Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin.
Parliament was suspended after the king, on the advice of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, imposed an emergency on Jan. 12 that runs until Aug. 1.
The king, who must give his blessing to the schedule, previously called for the parliament to return on June 16 and in February.
“His Majesty is of the view that a parliament sitting should be held as soon as possible in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines and standard operating procedures set by the Malaysian government and parliament,” Fadil said in a statement at the end of June after the king met with the speakers of both houses of parliament for about an hour.
The king expressed the view that parliamentary committees should continue meeting so there can be checks and balances to ensure the government is transparent and acting with integrity, particularly in public policy, social and financial affairs, and expenditures, the palace spokesman said at the time.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with the king as head of state. While his position is largely ceremonial because he must act according to the wishes of the government, most Malaysians revere the palace as an institution.
As the king called for a third time for parliament to resume, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Muhyiddin and his cabinet were “shameless” for ignoring him.
“I am certain that the [king] is merely speaking up on behalf of the majority of MPs and the majority of the public,” Anwar said in a Facebook post at the time.
Lawmakers including members of the ruling party and critics have questioned why parliament was suspended when they said the legislature was needed most, adding Muhyiddin was using the pretext of containing the pandemic to ensure parliament does not meet.
They also alleged that Muhyiddin, who heads an unelected government that came to office in March 2020, was attempting to cling to power after they said he had lost the support of his razor-thin parliamentary majority.
Muhyiddin remained hospitalized on Monday for treatment of a digestive system infection, according to the prime minister’s office.