Why Parliament in Malaysia allowed to meet for one day only on May 18, when UK Parliament meets in active session although it has 124,743 Covid-19 confirmed cases and 16,509 deaths and still to reach its peak, while Malaysia has passed its peak with 5,425 cases and 89 deaths?

The British newspaper, The Daily Mail, reported that the House of Commons has set up an electronic voting system as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic so that British Members of Parliament can pass laws without being in the Commons chamber for the first time ever as the United Kingdom prepares to re-open remotely later today.

Plans have already been unveiled to use Zoom web conferencing to allow MP to grill ministers while staying safely at home.

This would bring the 700-year-old institution into line with other legislatures including the European and Scottish parliaments, and the Welsh Assembly.

The House of Commons Commission meeting last week “endorsed preparations for the introduction of an operating model on Wednesday April 22 that would allow Members to participate in proceedings either virtually or physically in the Chamber, and which would ensure equality of treatment as far as practicable between those two forms of participation”.

The operating model, which will be presented to the House of Commons for approval, will apply initially only to Oral Questions, Urgent Questions and Oral Statements for a period of up to 2 hours at the start of business.

The UK Parliament's decision-makers last week agreed to “historic” plans to allow MPs to grill ministers remotely.

The virtual House of Commons will have capacity for 120 MPs to take part in proceedings.

But 50 of the 650 UK MPs will still be allowed to physically attend and sit on the chamber's famous green benches.

According to the UK Parliament website, three parliamentary Select Committees, namely Home Affairs, Treasury and Justice will be holding “virtual” meetings today. The Home Affairs Committee will focus on “Home Office preparedness for Covid-19” while the Treasury Committee will consider “Economic impact of Coronavirus”.

If the United Kingdom, whose Covid-19 outbreak has yet to reach its peak with a total of 124,743 confirmed cases and 16,509 deaths, its Parliament is in session to carry out the important task of government scrutiny, why is the Parliament in Malaysia, which has passed the peak in the present wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, with a total of 5,425 cases with 89 deaths, not permitted to meet at all except for one day on May 18

Many questions cry out for answer.

Will the Malaysian Parliament keep up with the times and set up an electronic voting system for Malaysian MPs as well as make preparations to enable virtual meetings of Parliament and of the various parliamentary Select Committees to take place?

Will the Malaysian Parliament stand out among world Parliaments in its concern about the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of being emasculated and marginalised which is what a one-day Parliament on May 18 would imply.

Almost two years ago on May 9, 2018, Malaysia was the example to the world of a thriving democracy in the 14th General Election democratically and peacefully bringing about a transition of power, especially when for a decade, parliamentary democracy as a system of government was in retreat all over the world.

Are we now to provide an example to the world of an emasculated and marginalised Parliament in the invisible war against the Covid-19 coronavirus?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri