Source: Despite priority vaccination, MPs still not required to be inoculated to enter Parliament
KUALA LUMPUR— Despite having received priority Covid-19 vaccination alongside medical workers, members of Parliament (MPs) are not required to be inoculated to access Dewan Rakyat for the upcoming special sitting on July 26.
A source privy to the matter told Malay Mail that MPs were informed that it was not compulsory for them to be vaccinated to attend the said sitting.
For the record, MPs were vaccinated in February, and as such, had four months to receive their jabs.
The source who requested anonymity questioned the rationale for the leeway, despite lawmakers being accorded privileged treatment.
“Swab test is mandatory. I think the MPs are going to get their swab test in Parliament this Friday, including the Speakers and deputy Speakers.
“Thirteen MPs have yet to be vaccinated and I think they are mostly from Sabah and Sarawak,” the source said, adding that “two or three MPs” have, however, refused to be vaccinated.
It is also not known why the other 10 MPs are still not vaccinated.
The source added that the leeway was also accorded to all MPs owing to the said few.
“They justified their refusal by saying vaccination is not a legal requirement under the Federal Constitution, so the three cannot be prevented from entering Parliament because they are unvaccinated,” the source said.
When contacted for confirmation, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil and Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto confirmed that Parliament had never made a rule forcing MPs to be inoculated.
However, the duo pointed out that lawmakers have a duty to educate their constituents on the importance of vaccination to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, and as such must lead by example.
“Previously, we were never given a condition to be allowed entry only if we are vaccinated. As far as I remember, there were no such conditions stipulated, but seeing the current situation in the country, where we are pushing for vaccination to achieve herd immunity, it is the duty of every MP to support the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP), first and foremost, by being an example themselves.
“MPs should be the first point of contact for constituents to find out the latest on the NIP initiative. I will be very disheartened and saddened to know if there are any MPs and government backbenchers who may have a different position on this issue, when we know vaccines save lives, and are what we need, to get out of the current predicament that we are in.
“Even though they do not have to reveal themselves, I believe that the government would have records and I believe it is a very poor show of confidence in the NIP,” Fahmi told Malay Mail.
Kasthuriraani echoed the sentiments of her Pakatan Harapan (PH) colleague, saying that while everyone reserves the right to be vaccinated or otherwise, MPs must lead by example.
She also questioned how the unvaccinated MPs would educate their voters on the importance of vaccination, when they themselves have not been inoculated.
“The science is there to show individuals in larger numbers who are vaccinated, result in great reductions in the numbers of casualties in the intensive care units (ICUs). I didn’t know we have those refusing vaccines among us, but this is not good.
“Vaccination saves lives. We meet many people as MPs and with new variants emerging, this is not a smart move. Also, for MPs who are anti-vaxxers, how are they going to encourage voters to get vaccinated?” she asked.
Parliament will sit for five days starting July 26, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced in a statement issued on July 5.
Dewan Rakyat proceedings will take place from July 26 to 29 and August 2, the statement said. Meanwhile, the Senate will sit for three days from August 3 to 5.
The PMO had said the special sittings are intended to provide explanations to MPs about the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and to amend all the necessary laws and rules to enable hybrid Parliament sittings, and with the proclamations of Emergency and Emergency Ordinances to be laid before Parliament.
On July 15, the Dewan Rakyat secretary listed activities as determined by the prime minister for the upcoming five-day special sitting as being for the proclamations of Emergency and Emergency ordinances to be tabled before Parliament in line with constitutional requirements and for ministers to provide briefing to MPs on the NRP, the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Emergency’s implementation and economic stimulus packages.
The Dewan Rakyat had on July 15 also said the Speaker has allowed MPs to seek explanations and give their views when ministers provide the briefings, but did not include the customary parliamentary debates by MPs in the schedule for the five-day special sitting.