Did the Health Ministry advise against the holding of Parliamentary meetings, including a virtual Parliament and Select Committee meetings to exercise oversight and scrutiny of government measures in the Covid-19 pandemic, and propose a one-day meeting on May 18?

Yesterday, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, announced that he would present a national exit strategy to the French Parliament tomorrow, which would then debate and vote on the government’s recommendations.

France’s daily death toll slowed as recorded Covid-19 fatalities in France rose by 242 on Sunday, down from 369 new deaths the previous day.

In the past week alone, France recorded an increase of 14,256 Covid-19 cases and 3,139 people died of the disease – way beyond the figures recorded in Malaysia.

If the country which is presently the second country after the United States with the highest recorded number of Covid-19 confirmed cases, i.e. 226,629 cases with 23,190 deaths, could report to Parliament and seek parliamentary approval for the French national exit strategy, why is the Malaysian Parliament being emasculated and marginalised?

The Minister for Parliamentary affairs, Takiyuddin Hassan said that the decision on the one-day Parliament on May 18 was based on the advice of the Health Ministry as well as relevant specialists for the benefit and safety of all parties.

Did the Health Ministry advise against the holding of Parliamentary meetings, including virtual Parliament and Select Committee meetings, to exercise oversight and scrutiny of government measures in the Covid-19 pandemic, and propose instead a one-day meeting on May 18 just to comply with the constitutional requirement that Parliament must meet once every six months?

I hope the Health director-general, Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, in his daily media conference today, would be able to throw some light on whether the Health Ministry had advised the holding of a one-day Parliament and that it was against Parliament holding the government to accountability and scrutiny for all actions related to the Covid-19 pandemic?

I am quite sceptical that the idea of a one-day meeting of Parliament on May 18 had come from the Health Ministry, as by April 17, when the parliamentary secretary sent out the notice to all MPs about the one-day Parliament, the Health director-general and all specialists would have suspected that the country had passed the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak, subject to confirmation by developments in the coming days.

If by March 31, I could state that ““there are hopeful signs that JP Morgan’s grim projection of Malaysia peaking at 6,300 Covid-19 cases by mid-April can be proven wrong” and on April 7, I could hazard the prognosis that the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia had been reached on April 3rd with 3,333 cases, I do not believe that the health director-general or any specialist could not see the writing on the wall and shared with the top government leaders the view that the Covid-19 epidemiological curve had been flattened and that Malaysia was only the downward descent of the curve – completely unlike European countries like the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy and the United States.

From April 17 to yesterday, Malaysia’s daily increase in Covid-19 cases broke free from three-digit figures, and were consistently in double-digit figures ranging from 36 to 88 cases.

In comparison, United Kingdom’s daily increases not only remained in four-digit figures since April 17 but ranged from 4,301 to 5,850 cases.

France was also in four-digit figures for daily increase of Covid-10 cases since April 17, ranging from 1,101 to 3,824 cases except yesterday when it registered an increase of 612 cases.

If the idea of a one-day Parliament had not emanated from the Health Ministry or the advice of specialists, the Minister of parliamentary affairs should eat humble pie and ask Cabinet on Wednesday to rectify the mistake of a one-day Parliament, which has gained notoriety for the Malaysian Parliament in the world.

The government should instead discuss with the leaders of the political parties represented in Parliament as to how Parliament can perform its critical roles of oversight and scrutiny in the Covid-19 pandemic and not be the first country in the Covid-19 pandemic to emasculate and marginalise Parliament.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri