While most of the attention will be on the sitting of the Dewan Rakyat next week as the Malaysian Parliament convenes in a special session due to the Covid-19 public health emergency, it is equally important to ensure that the deliberations of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation also be under public scrutiny.
The Committee meetings should be made accessible to the public through live-streaming.
The broadcast, and later live-streaming, of Malaysia’s parliamentary sessions have played important roles in developing and growing the Malaysian public’s interest and participation in our democracy.
The discussions and debates in the parliamentary chamber were previously only accessible through media reports, and to those brave enough to go through the parliamentary records, the Hansard.
Today, these exchanges can be followed live on TV, computer screens and mobile phones as they unfold, with all the sound, fire and passion of the parliamentary debaters.
That same approach to transparency, accountability and public engagement should be brought to the proceedings of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation.
The list of issues linked to the Covid-19 crisis is long, and covers the state of Malaysia’s public health system, the assessment of the government’s response, current expenditure on health, the vaccination programme, and the growing threat of variants.
Most of these issues won’t be able to be properly covered in the main chamber, but they can be discussed and scrutinised at length in the select committee meetings.
It is unacceptable that we can watch webcasts of the US Senate committee hearings, the UK Parliament’s Select Committee meetings, and even video footage of certain select committee hearings from Singapore.
We can even watch New Zealand’s parliamentary select committee meetings on Facebook Live. Yet, we are unable to do the same here.
We should be able to gain access to the Malaysian Parliament’s select committee meetings as befitting the example of a modern and progressive democratic country of the 21st century.
Asking for the proceedings to be live-streamed for public viewing is reasonable and urgently needed. If the Standing Orders need to be amended to accommodate this, it should be done so immediately.
Covid-19 has been a disruptive and transformative force for many countries, forcing reforms and a hard look at inadequate systems and institutions.
It is time that the Malaysian Parliament also implements reforms which will bring it to the level of other democratic institutions worldwide that are working hard for the people they represent in a time of crisis.
Azrul Mohd Khalib is Chief Executive of the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.