Youths show Malaysia’s lawmakers that virtual Parliament completely possible

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4  —  Frustrated with the fact that Parliament has not convened for any debate since December and the government’s refusal to hold online Dewan Rakyat meetings, a group of today sought to demonstrate that a digital Parliament was feasible.

The initiative, known as Parlimen Digital, saw 222 youth representatives reflecting the federal seats in Malaysia convene a two-day debate session beginning today during which they intend to discuss and pass new “laws” and “policies” via the online platform.

The online sitting was broadcast Facebook and began with a prayer recital.

It was followed by a short briefing from Speaker Lim Wei Jiet on the rules of the House before the debate commenced.

Today’s discussion saw some 24 youth speakers debating the topic titled “The need for an Economic Stimulus Plan Specifically for Youths” from 9am until the session ended at around 12.30pm with a vote by all members of the House.

The first to address the online meet was Kubang Kerian representative Ahmad Fadhlullah Mohamed Rafi’E who wanted a more inclusive economic policy for the youths, seeing that they are the most endangered group in light of the current economic situation.

Like the rest of his peers, Ahmad Fadhlullah was given three and a half minutes to get his point across. This was followed by a three-and-half minutes of replying to questions from the floor, giving each speaker a total of seven minutes to argue their stance on the issue.

Normally, in the Dewan Rakyat each lawmaker who wants to debate was given roughly 10 to 15 minutes to address the Lower House. Other members of the House can interject or ask questions if given permission by the Speaker and the member who commands the floor.

At times, such interjection by political rivals in the Dewan Rakyat could lead to heated discussions, outright argument or even taunts, name calling and jeering that interrupt the meeting itself and sometimes forcing the Speaker to remove errant .

However, unlike their older counterparts, the Digital Parliament chaired by Speaker Lim had no such issues today.

Instead, bereft of any political alliances, their proceedings seem far more mature, polite and civilised in comparison to their seniors in the Dewan Rakyat proper.

Lim earlier warned the representatives that any disruption to the meeting would lead them to being muted from further engaging in the debate.

Although looking at Malaysia’s track record when it comes to misbehaving MPs, it is doubtful that the actual Speaker and his deputies would have an easier time controlling and managing the rowdier lawmakers from both sides of the political divide on a digital platform except by muting them.

After the debate ended at roughly 12.30pm, Lim called for a vote utilising a software by Microsoft.

Unfortunately for viewers, the result of the ballot will only be announced tomorrow after the second debate session on education is over.

However, there were a couple of technical glitches faced by the Digital Parliament, which could be attributed to connectivity issues.

The Tanjong Manis representative, Mohd Firman Abdullah was unable to join the debate today, despite being called twice by Lim, the first when he was scheduled to speak and the second time when all the other representatives had taken their turn.

Apart from that, the fact that the Digital Parliament had more than 88,000 views on Facebook, with 561 shares and 693 reactions shows that any Dewan Rakyat meetings held online will be very popular with Malaysians and that it can be done successfully.

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