We need democratic freedom, but also freedom from interference of other countries

It is a positive note for Malaysia’s democracy when His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong stated that the Parliament session can be convened during the emergency period that we are currently in now.

It is important for the Dewan Rakyat sessions to be held to ensure our political system of checks and balances is practiced which is the basis of democracy and representative government. The Dewan Rakyat is the legislative arm of our government, and the representatives debate on laws and government policies which will be enforced. The august House of the Parliament examines and approves government decisions especially when it comes to spending.

As long as we ensure the standard operating procedures (SOP) and necessary precautions are adhered to in the Parliament when the session is conducted, I don’t think we should have any fear of infecting the Parliamentarians. 

To be sarcastic, the Member of Parliaments are already busy out everywhere, whether it is giving aids to their constituents, attending meetings, discussing political moves, or to a certain extent, not even adhering to the SOP regulations. If they are free and not afraid of doing all these, aren’t they not supposed to be fearful of attending Parliament sessions?

Even if we are afraid of our Parliament representatives being infected, we always have the choice of doing it virtually. Some of the nations in the world have proven that virtual sessions are possible. The United Kingdom’s House of Commons and House of Lords, the lower and upper house are able to conduct their meetings in virtual or in hybrid methods. 

Earlier last year, the youth of Malaysia proved that virtual meetings are possible when they had a Digital Parliament which consisted of 222 young people participating. There is totally no issue of privacy as it is the best when the Dewan Rakyat sessions can be held and available online for Malaysians to witness. Through that way, Malaysians would know more about government policies, and will know if their representative is raising their concerns or not. As a matter of fact, we should make it convenient for people to view the proceedings at any time. There should be more transparency in our democracy.

As a Southeast Asian country, we have to be mindful of our ASEAN Charter which signs to adhere to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Therefore, it is important when our MPs can start meeting again as soon as possible.

Despite my stand of hoping Parliament can reconvene at any time soon, I personally do not agree when the 89 current and former Southeast Asian lawmakers who are from different countries urge for the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to reconvene again. 

We must not also forget that in the ASEAN Charter, we must respect the fundamental importance of amity and cooperation, and the principles of sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, non-interference, consensus and unity in diversity. The ASEAN and its Member States must act in the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other ASEAN Member States.

The 89 political leaders may be right in their opinions, but I think our country is not facing a problem as huge as we need interference from people of other countries. Furthermore, the political turmoil that we are in now is due to the struggle of power and position of different parties. Now how can we be sure that those 89 Southeast Asian leaders that made the statement have no connections with any of Malaysia’s political leaders whether for now or in the future? How can we be sure that there are no lobbying, deals and negotiations in the process?

They may be sincere in protecting democracy regionally, but when a precedent is set that people from other countries are allowed to interfere in our politics and government, does that mean that in the future they are able to influence our public policies directly as well?

While we need to protect our freedom of democracy in Malaysia, we should also protect our freedom from interference.