Why not reconvene Parliament and let Malaysians be heard?


Parliament

Why not reconvene Parliament and let Malaysians be heard?
By Zan Azlee

Where can Malaysians voice out their concerns if they have any when it comes to the government? On normal days, there is Parliament where the people’s representatives, the elected MPs, would debate and bring forth the voice of their constituents. The press is also there to voice out for the people and yes, there will be those who voice their grouses online.

What I have mentioned above are all valid and legit ways for the people of a country to voice their concerns to their government. But what happens when these avenues are taken away from the people? What happens when Parliament stops sessions, the press isn’t allowed to report everything, or social media is policed?

MPs have been frustrated and have been calling for Parliament to be convened. In fact, Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said recently made a call for Parliament to continue because by suspending it, it erodes democracy. She says that many issues need to be debated and that Malaysians are already sacrificing so many liberties because of Covid-19.

Azalina even made a few suggestions, such as forming an interim emergency government with representation from all parties, online or virtual sessions, and even vaccinating everyone in Parliament. She stated that the suspension of Parliament has not only “crippled democracy, but it has also crippled the capacity of government officials of basic courtesy to respond to valid concerns raised by MPs beyond the walls of Dewan Rakyat”.

Opposition MPs have resorted to making public statements in order for their issues to be heard. But, because it isn’t officially in Parliament, nothing much can actually come out of it since there is no legit avenue for the issues to be addressed. This can be frustrating, not just for the MPs, but especially so for the people who are supposed to be represented by the MPs.

The press, which reports on different issues, sometimes gets harassed as well. Journalists from several news organisations such as Malaysiakini have been called up by police to give statements on the stories that they report. Shouldn’t the press be protected from harassment for doing its work, which is to voice issues and concerns?

And when people are frustrated, they will definitely start going on to social media to vent. They vent in many ways, from expressing outright anger to sarcastically making jokes and laughing. Can you blame them? Already suffering from a pandemic and inconsistent lockdowns, what else are they supposed to do?

Even then, so many have been hauled up by the authorities for expressing themselves. Investigation papers are opened and the risk of charges hang over their heads just for stating their opinions or asking questions. Is this fair? What else do the people have? They have no other avenues because everything has been taken away.

Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said

Maybe, Azalina is right. Maybe, Parliament needs to reconvene even though we are in the worst stage of the pandemic at the moment. It could play a role in alleviating a lot of the frustrations that people feel. Just as she and many MPs are saying, it could even be reconvened without having to address motions of confidence.

I would like to humbly request to the government that the people be given a chance to be heard. We just want our concerns listened to, be taken seriously, and addressed if it is possible. We all want Malaysia to get back on her feet. The longer she suffers, the longer we the people suffer, too.

Everyone understands that we need to control the pandemic. I doubt anyone doesn’t want to achieve that. Look at the first movement control order (MCO 1.0) when everyone took it seriously and followed the rules to a T. We even managed to bring the number of infections down to single digits at that time. Everyone rejoiced knowing that we all played a part in that.

But what happened between then and now, has just seen so many people being frustrated, angry, and exhausted. That is just a pressure cooker waiting for its lid to be suddenly removed. I believe that at the moment, nobody is concerned about who is running the government. They just want to make sure things are done efficiently and that their concerns are heard.

There have been a lot of issues that have warranted addressing properly, from the National Immunisation Programme, education issues to sexual harassment and misconduct, national spending and debt, and corruption. People feel like these issues are not being properly addressed. From how I see it, it really has nothing to do with politicking, and everything to do with governance.

So, how about it? Take it step by step. First of all, don’t be too hard on those expressing themselves on social media. They have a right to their opinions and thoughts anyway. Try not to make it too difficult for journalists and press organisations to do their jobs. And, why not consider reconvening Parliament? Most MPs have been vaccinated anyway in the first stage and many are supporting Azalina’s call.

Can?

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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