‘Parliament is for debates, not lectures’ : Anwar speaks out against time limit for parliamentarians

Anwar speaking in Parliament today. Photo: Radio Televisyen Malaysia
Anwar speaking in Parliament today. Photo: Radio Televisyen Malaysia

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim today spoke out against the time limit imposed on parliamentarians to debate the budget, saying that sittings were meant for ministers to debate and not give bite-sized lectures.

The chief of the Alliance of Hope (PH) coalition and Port Dickson representative said that it was against the “spirit” of Parliament to simply deliver 20 minute motions in response to the recently delivered budget statement and with no option to answer questions. Anwar, 73, had also asked the Speaker of the House Azhar Azizan Harun to relax restrictions on the number of people allowed in sittings.

“Parliamentary sessions are meant for debates to take place, not lectures. Not allowing full attendance to parliamentary sessions is just one thing,” Anwar was heard saying in parliament. 

“There’s no need to be an MP when all you have to do is give a 20-minute executive summary and simply read aloud from the text,” he later added. “I understand that parliamentary sessions are meant for debating, commenting, and questioning, especially during the Q&A session. This cannot be done in merely 20 minutes.”

His comment received a few cheers of support from some ministers off-screen. After hearing Anwar out, House Speaker Azhar, also known as Art Harun, took the complaints into consideration and said that he would consult party leaders on the matter. 

The speaker had said at the start of today’s sitting that members of parliament, or MPs, only had 20 minutes to present their motion on the recently delivered budget statement. It was the first time that such a restriction was imposed. MPs who have more things to say beyond the time limit can upload their speech onto the Malaysian Parliament website. 

Only 80 out of 222 members of parliament are allowed in sittings as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which saw a surge of cases following the Sabah state elections. Anwar also took the opportunity to speak out against this today. 

“Give us a little leeway so more than 80 MPs can be present and increase the duration for the MP presentation session, for clarity’s sake. Otherwise, the parliament doesn’t work in this manner,” Anwar said.

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Anwar Ibrahim meets Malaysia’s king in bid to seek new government

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