Why is my question on the PAS Minister who broke the Covid-19 quarantine SOP ranked No 38 in Dewan Rakyat question time tomorrow instead of an earlier placing with a chance of it being answered orally in Parliament?

Yesterday, the Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah declined to answer the flip flop in law enforcement where the PAS Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities, Khairuddin Aman Razali, was only fined for violation of the Covid-19 quarantine SOP after returning from Turkey on July 7.

I had posed a parliamentary question on the very same issue when Parliament starts tomorrow for its 27-day budget session, but the question is placed at the bottom of the queue and would not be answered orally.

Why is my question on the PAS Minister who broke the Covid-19 quarantine SOP ranked No 38 in Dewan Rakyat question time tomorrow instead of an earlier placing with a chance of it being answered orally in Parliament?

I had asked the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to explain the latest status of the investigation into the violation of the Covid-19 quarantine SOP by Khairuddin.

It is obvious that the question about the flip-flop law enforcement of the Covid-19 SOP in the case of the PAS Minister is of major national importance, and there would be many supplementary questions by unhappy Members of Parliament on both sides of the House who are waiting to jump in on the floor of Parliament, for it would determine the degree of public trust and support for any “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” mindset and approach launched by the government in the war against Covid-19 pandemic.

The placing of parliamentary questions, to determine as to whether they would be answered orally to be followed by supplementary questions by MPs or to be answered later in the form of written reply, should not be an arbitrary one, depending on the likes or dislikes of the Ministers but should depend on the degree of its public interest and importance.

Of course, the Muhyiddin Cabinet does not want the flip-flop of the enforcement of Covid-19 quarantine SOP in the case of the PAS Minister to come up in Parliament during Question Time, but this will be interference with the doctrine of separation of powers among the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

There must be clear and proper guidelines for the positioning of parliamentary questions for Question Time which could withstand public scrutiny and which should be decided by the House Select Committee or any other parliamentary select committee to be implemented by the parliamentary administrators.

This is one area of parliamentary reform which warrants attention.

The drawing up of the order of business for the parliamentary meeting beginning tomorrow is quite controversial.

Two weeks ago, one of the hottest properties on the social media was a 2015 talk show video titled “Art of the Matter: How to Overthrow a Government (Legally)”, where the Speaker of Parliament, Azhar Azizan Harun in his capacity as Art Harun said a no confidence motion, “by convention or constitutional practice, not by law”, must be the first item of parliamentary business.

But this is not reflected in the Order Paper for the parliamentary meeting tomorrow.

Even while maintaining that under the parliamentary Standing Orders, any non-government business can only leap over government business if it receives backing from a minister, the Speaker had not complied with his own commandment that a no confidence motion must be the first item of parliamentary business among non-government business.

Under the parliamentary Order Paper tomorrow, it is obvious that two government MPs have filed motions of confidence in support of the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin while 25 opposition MPs have filed no confidence motions against the Prime Minister.

But none of these 27 items have been placed as the first item of parliamentary business after official business in the Order Paper for tomorrow’s Parliamentary meeting.

The first of these 27 motions, whether of confidence or no confidence, is listed as Item No. 19 – a no confidence motion filed by the Pejuang MP for Kubang Pasu, Amiruddin Hamzah.

The first four items are official business, and the rest are private business of Members of Parliament.

According to Art Harun’s 2015 video, a confidence motion or a no-confidence motion should be placed as No.5 of the Order of Business tomorrow, even if it does not make it as the No. 1 item!

An explanation from the Speaker is in order.

The report by Noor Hisham on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic third wave yesterday is most heartening as Malaysia seemed to be turning the corner of the surge of Covid-19 infections and fatalities in the country.

This is a “turning the corner” which is completely different from Donald Trump’s disinformation about “turning the corner” in the United States Presidential campaign – as Trump is using the term when the daily Covid-19 cases and fatalities have risen sharply in the United States, breaching 100,000 infections and 1,000 fatalities a single day while Malaysia is registering a consecutive three-day reduction of Covid-19 infections and fatalities.

On Friday, the world registered the highest record of a daily increase of 573,630 cases (nearly five times the global cumulative total on March 11 when the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a pandemic).

There is a new surge of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, where whole countries are in the red zone and the colours of red, orange and green cease to have any more meaning.

In the United Kindom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England back into a national lockdown after the United Kingdom passed the milestone of one million COVID-19 cases in a second wave of infections which threatened to overwhelm the UK health service.

Malaysia is also facing a grim challenge from the Covid-19 pandemic, but we are not in the same league of other nations, like the top nine countries with a cumulative total of over a million Covid-19 cases, led by the United States with more than 9.4 million cases, followed by India and Brazil with nearly 8.2 million and over 5.5 million cases respectively.

With 31,548 cases, we are now No. 88th in the world among the countries with most number of Covid-19 infections although in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic we were ranked No18.

In terms of total cases per 1 million population, however, we are ranked No. 130.

Malaysia has 971 Covid-19 cases per 1 million population, while the top 10 countries in terms of total cases per 1 million population ranged from 30,838 cases to 60,345 cases per 1 million population.

When will the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia peak? Will there be more waves of the Covid-19 pandemic before it is brought under control, some say 2022?

Malaysia is struggling to ensure that we avoid four-digit daily increase of Covid-19 infections, although we have failed twice on the 24th and 26th October when we recorded 1,228 and 1,240 Covid-19 new cases respectively.

There is a modelling projection by academicians in Malaysia that there will be 15,000 active Covid-19 cases by November 8, 2020.

The reports of Covid-19 cases by the Health Director-General, Noor Hisham Abdullah in the last three days seem to provide some light at the end of the tunnel.

In the last three days – 629 new cases and no new deaths on Thursday, 799 new cases and three deaths on Friday and 659 new cases and no new deaths yesterday – may be signs of the beginning of a slowdown of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic where there are no more new daily increases in four-digit figures.

At this juncture, let Parliament have a 2021 Budget to save lives and livelihoods in Malaysia in the Covid-19 pandemic, which should reflect for the first time an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approach and mindset representing the views of both the Government and the Opposition in the war against Covid-19 epidemic.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri