KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 – Parliament has imposed mandatory Covid-19 testing on lawmakers planning to attend this year’s first Dewan Rakyat meeting that has been shortened to one day on May 18.
According to a letter by Dewan Rakyat secretary Riduan Rahmat dated April 27 to Malaysia’s 222 MPs, Covid-19 testing will be conducted in Parliament complex here between 9am and 3pm on May 14 and 15, as instructed by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.
Those who prefer to get tested at any other nearby government clinics or hospitals for coronavirus must do the screening two to three days before the one-day May 18 Parliament meeting and get a confirmation letter from the doctor.
The government will not cover the cost of Covid-19 testing in any private medical facilities.
“If Yang Berhormat fails to do the test or is found to test positive for Covid-19 during the screening, Yang Berhormat will not be allowed to attend the Parliament Session Opening Ceremony and the First Meeting of the Third Session of the 14th Parliament,” said the Dewan Rakyat secretary in his letter, as sighted by CodeBlue.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii — a Covid-19 survivor — has questioned the government’s move to conduct coronavirus tests on all MPs that will be attending the one-day Parliament sitting on May 18 that will only see the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s address, which is usually a speech on government matters, without any Question Time for ministers.
“While I welcome all the necessary precautions that needs to be taken before the Parliament session, but this will mean that extra resources may need to be used especially when many of us from East Malaysia will need to fly all the way to KL much earlier to do the testing all for only a single-day sitting in Parliament which may not be very productive,” Dr Yii told CodeBlue.
“For us East Malaysians, flight to KL is also very limited and costly. On top of that, if we are to take all the necessary precautions, we will also need to be quarantined the moment we reach KL to do testing and also be transported to Parliament session, then back to airport for our flight back. Once we reach Sarawak, based on the current SOP, we will need to be quarantined for a further 14 days.
“All this will be extra resources to the government especially during a tough economic season such as this. I strongly believe that the resources can be better spent and more creative ways can be done for Parliament sessions just like how it was done in countries such as UK, Japan, Australia where they utilised modern technology including video-conferencing to do parliament sitting,” the DAP lawmaker said.
He cited Singapore as an example, saying that the island nation has drafted a bill that would allow Parliament to function without physical attendance in Parliament.
Dr Yii suggested that the upcoming Parliament meeting be extended to at least two weeks or 10 days so that lawmakers can check the government of the day during an extraordinary crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If not, it will not be a good use of the government’s precious resources for us to fly over if we cannot properly bring the voice of our people to Parliament.”
Apart from that, Dr Yii raised five concerns regarding the handling of the pandemic in Sarawak, as well as other coronavirus-related issues on the national level.
“Question the handling of the pandemic in Sarawak especially in Kuching and Kota Samarahan, on why our mortality/death rate is relatively high (almost 3x national average) and recovery rate is slower than national average,” he asked.
“Plans of the government on how we intend to increase our testing capacity and do more mass testing especially among vulnerable and high-risk groups including migrants (legal & illegal).
“What are the government plans to help students especially in the rural areas to not get left behind in their education especially in areas with little or no internet connectivity. Home-based learning is good but it has the risk to further widen the educational gap between the urban-rural and also rich-poor.”
He also questioned the government’s plan to cushion the economic impact on the country especially among the bottom 40 per cent (B40) and also the “New Poor”.
His last concern was on the plight of government health care workers and their job contracts.
“What are the government plans on contracts and permanent posting for young medical doctors, pharmacists, dentists and other health care workers. In this health crisis, we will need more manpower and it is pertinent we need to show our appreciation to those who risk their lives and contribute to the healing of our nation,” he said.