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16 Feb 2021

PETALING JAYA: A total of 90 members of Parliament and former elected representatives from various Asean countries have urged the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the prime minister to allow Parliament to reconvene as soon as possible.

In a joint statement, the signatories said this was to keep Putrajaya accountable, protect human rights and to allow Parliament to review the emergency measures while contributing to major policy decisions.

They also urged Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun to ensure parliamentary committees were active and meeting regularly, adding that Parliaments globally had already adapted to new norms amid the pandemic to ensure they continued functioning.

“As the body through which the will of the people is expressed, Parliament holds a central position in a functioning democracy, and its current suspension effectively removes public participation from the decision-making process.

“This is particularly worrying at a time when the government’s decisions will have long-lasting consequences on the lives of the people.

“Considering how emergency measures in the region, including in Thailand and the Philippines, have led to restrictions on fundamental freedoms, it is more vital than ever for Parliament to function effectively and provide safeguards against any potential misuse of power.”

They urged authorities to ensure that emergency measures were not misused to clamp down on human rights or to usurp the powers and functions of democratic institutions, saying any action taken should be proportionate to addressing the threat of the pandemic.

“Such powers should be temporary, subject to effective legislative and judicial oversight, and not be used discriminatorily to target specific groups.”

They also said the emergency powers did not meet established international standards and severely limited government accountability.

“The introduction of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 grants excessively broad powers to the authorities while shielding their actions from any meaningful parliamentary or judicial oversight.

“In particular, the ordinance removes legislative scrutiny and limits judicial authority over officials during the emergency,” the MPs and ex-MPs from Thailand, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Singapore said in the signed statement. - Free Malaysia Today

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