Opposition members protested the two-week lockdown of Malaysia’s parliament in Kuala Lumpur, which postponed the final day of the “special session”. The session commenced on July 26 and was scheduled to end on August 2. Protestors faced a wall of riot police, water cannons and threats of arrests from police who blocked the road to enter parliament.
Before the special session, Malaysia’s parliament had been suspended for almost seven months after prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin issued a declaration of a state of emergency in response to Covid-19 on January 11. While the government claims parliament’s recent closure was closed after authorities found two positive Covid-19 cases among politicians and staff, the opposition and the Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia said the closure is an attempt to subvert Malaysia’s democratic systems. Opposition members of parliament claim the prime minister is avoiding a motion of no-confidence that they anticipated would be raised on August 2.
Malaysia’s health director-general Dr Noor Hisham said a total of 11 suspected delta-variant Covid-19 cases were initially detected from the special session sitting period and “parliament sitting is a high risk gathering susceptible to Covid-19 infections.”
The IFJ said: “A functioning parliament is necessary for democracy, transparent government and independent media. Preventing parliament from sitting limits the ability to hold the government accountable, limiting journalists’ ability to inform the public and scrutinise government decisions. The IFJ urges the Malaysian government to explore alternative models such as remote parliamentary sessions to ensure democracy and an independent media continue to function.”