BREAKING NEWS . . . Parliament may ‘reconvene’ sooner rather than later

BREAKING NEWS . . . Parliament may ‘reconvene’ sooner rather than later.

Agong has ‘power’ under Emergency Ordinance.

It would not be surprising at all if Parliament reconvenes sooner rather than later. The Agong did say, not so long ago, that Parliament can sit during an Emergency.

I stand corrected for rushing to judgment even as the public are digesting the two Istana statements, issued on Wed 16 June 2021, in their entirety, weighing every word carefully.

Already, all MPs and Parliament staff have been vaccinated. So, nothing should hold them back on meeting, Emergency, or no Emergency.

Parliament, as the first order of business, would discuss the National Recovery Plan announced on Tues 15 June by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

There are also other issues: vaccine purchases and roll-out, herd immunity, moratorium on bank loans, aid packages, re-opening the economy, and a post-vaccination plan including on handling future pandemic and endemic.

Lawmakers can “seek clarity” from Agong on Parliament “reconvening as soon as possible”.

The Dictionary defines “as soon as possible”, it’s more than “secepat mungkin” (as soon as possible).

“As soon as possible”, read in so many ways in the court of public opinion, has been well and truly Defined in the dictionary. There’s unanimity that it means “yesterday”, for want of a better term.

In law, the court often looks at the Dictionary for the simple meaning in English, before interpreting INTENTION, whether it refers to the Constitution, Parliament, case law, Adat, administrative laws, customary and industry practices, or even a Company’s policies, procedures and customary practices.

The debate rages in the social media on the Agong’s publicly announced position on June 16 that Parliament, shuttered since Jan 12, reconvene “as soon as possible”.

The consensus of opinion, among the legal fraternity for example, remains that the Agong’s options for “proactive action” may be exhausted once the Emergency, six months in force, expires on Aug 1.

That may perhaps explain why the Agong made the “as soon as possible” call on reconvening Parliament.

Many people think the head of state may have even been “deliberate” on the “as soon as possible” announcement, nothing less, nothing more besides rejecting an extension of the Emergency.

The debate among lawyers on the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, promulgated in Jan, continues to be fierce. The majority argue that it allows for Agong to call for Parliament to reconvene, on a suitable date, without the advice of the PM.

Indeed, the debate goes, Parliament could be reconvened for an Emergency session, after a 14-day notice, the shortest possible under parliamentary Conventions.

Section 14 (1) (a) of the Ordinance states: “For so long as the Emergency is in force, the provisions relating to the summoning, proroguing and dissolution of Parliament in the Federal Constitution shall not have effect.”

Section 14 (1) (b) also states: “The Parliament shall be summoned, prorogued and dissolved on a date as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong thinks appropriate.”

No court would go against the Agong. The matter is non-justiciable. It has been said before that some things are beyond the Constitution, court, and law.

In short, once the Emergency expires without being extended a further six months, the only discretionary power that remains with Agong may be on withholding consent for the dissolution of Parliament, if advised by the Prime Minister.

Hence, it’s unlikely that the Prime Minister would visit the Istana on July 31 or earlier, and advise that the Emergency be extended a further six months. If something forces the Agong’s hand, he would be more inclined to appoint a new PM. Anyway, let’s not go there. It’s another story for another day.

Also, the Agong and brother sultans have openly indicated that they want the Emergency to end on Aug 1. The sultans want the state assemblies to meet. Sabah, and S’wak, have territorial assemblies. The five year term of the S’wak territorial assembly ended on Sun 6 June 2021.

Emergency may only empower the Agong, not the PM. If there’s no Emergency, the head of state by Convention acts on the advice of the PM.

In law school, we learn that a gov’t on paper can do whatever it wants, unless restrained by the court.

The jury will always be out on whether the Agong could reject the advice of the PM in late Oct last year to declare Emergency.

It’s Convention that the Agong acts on the advice of the PM. Conventions are about the working of the Constitution. They are not law. No court will hear Applications on Conventions.

Author: fernzthegreat

Joe Fernandez holds a honours degree in management, majoring in economics, and has opted from academia in law to being a jurist. He was trained professionally on the job as a journalist. He's a longtime Borneo watcher, keen on the history and legal aspects of Malaya's presence in Sabah and Sarawak. He teaches the English language privately and has emerged as a subject matter expert in public examination techniques.

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