Parliament and the govt are different

THE Parliament of Malaysia is now in its 14th term. A parliamentary term is divided into sessions, which range from three to six. For example, the third (1971-1973) and fifth (1978-1981) Parliament had three sessions while the 13th (2013-2018) had six sessions.

A session starts with a meeting. Recent terms of Parliament had three meetings in a session with the longest lasting more than 40 days (third meeting, first session, 12th Parliament). Each day, including the first day of each meeting, is a sitting.

Between meetings, Parliament is adjourned sine die (a date to be fixed). At the end of the last sitting of the last meeting of a session (at the conclusion of a session) Parliament is prorogued until it is summoned by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 55(1) of the Federal Constitution for the first meeting of the next session. Prorogation is by way of proclamation by the Agong under Article 55(2).

The above is consistent with the remarks of the Federal Court in Public Prosecutor v Khong Teng Khen & Anor [1976] 2 MLJ 166 referred to by Joshua Wu. 

It is also consistent with the words as they are defined in the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat. A session is “the sittings of the House commencing when the House first meets after being constituted, or any time and terminating when the House is prorogued or is dissolved without having been prorogued”.

Notice the plural form of “sitting” in the definition. A session consists rightly of sittings in one or more meetings.  

A meeting is “any sitting or sittings of the House commencing when the House first meets after being summoned at any time and terminating when the House is in adjournment for more than fourteen days or sine die or at the conclusion of a session”.

Again, notice the singular form of “sitting”, which means a meeting can consist of one sitting. A meeting terminates when it is adjourned, usually sine die. 

But a sitting must be a continuous period as a sitting is “a period during which the House is sitting continuously (apart from any suspension) without adjournment, and includes any period during which the House is in Committee”.

Hence, when the Agong summons Parliament for the first meeting of a session of a parliamentary term, it is a summon or a call to Parliament to sit for a continuous period without adjournment. It is not just a call to listen to the royal address only.

This may lend support to Sarajun Hoda’s layman verdict that the “May 18 sitting fails to qualify as a sitting that fulfils constitutional requirements. Neither did it qualify by measure of any codified conventions, practices and precedents in any part of the world that practises the Westminster system of governance”. 

Of course, Parliament regulates itself once it is summoned to meet for a sitting or sittings. It regulates its own proceedings by its Standing Orders.

It is here that I agree with Wu, citing Haji Salleh Jafaruddin v Celestine Ujang & Ors [1986] 2 MLJ 412, that to question the validity of the proceedings of any House of Parliament in any court is forbidden under Article 63(1) of the Federal Constitution.

Standing Order 99A is also crystal clear, where “in making any decision there has been a failure on the part of the House or any Committee thereof to comply with any provision of the Standing Order in the proceeding leading to the decision, such failure shall be treated as an irregularity and shall not nullify the proceedings or the decision resulting therefrom.”

Having said this, one must implore Parliament, through the speaker, to uphold its Standing Orders. Hence, if a notice of motion submitted by Langkawi MP Dr Mahathir Mohamad for Parliament to retain the Dewan Rakyat speaker for a full term was rejected as being not “in accordance with Standing Order 27”, should the speaker have rejected the Order of Business set out for May 18 by the government as well, as being not in accordance with Standing Order 14(1)?

The Standing Orders must be applied alike. The speaker is the chief officer and highest authority of the House and must remain politically impartial at all times.

Parliament and the government are different. The speaker and the leader of the House, who is the leader of the government, are different.

But both take the same oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. – May 22, 2020.

* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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