Art Harun: Parliament Road Closure Was Police Decision

The embattled Dewan Rakyat Speaker said he has no knowledge as to why Opposition members of Parliament (MPs) were barred from entry.

Cover image via Hari Anggara/Malay Mail & AFP/Al Jazeera

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Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun today refuted claims that he closed the august house on 2 August

The Speaker, also known as 'Art' Harun, also stated that he did not bar any member from entry the day when opposition members of Parliament (MPs) marched towards the Parliament building after not being allowed in.

"Actually, Parliament is not closed. I instructed the Parliament Secretary to say Parliament is open as I know MPs have left their things in the Dewan and office," said Azhar.

"On how the road was closed, it was a police action. Why it was closed? I have no knowledge," he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.

During that kerfuffle in early August, Parliament was in the midst of a special emergency sitting when it was postponed for two weeks after being deemed high risk for COVID-19. Undeterred, a reported 107 MPs in opposition to the then-Muhyiddin government descended on Dataran Merdeka, which led to the march.

Their efforts were then foiled by the police midway at the Dato Onn roundabout.

Azhar also confirmed that he granted permission for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to conduct their business that same day

The Speaker made the statement in response to a grievance raised by PAC Chairman and Ipoh Timur MP Wong Kah Woh.

Wong earlier said that he was threatened with arrest by the police if he attempted to enter the building that day, even though a scheduled meeting was granted prior permission.

"I gave specific instructions to allow PAC members to enter Parliament that day. I am willing to meet with the police to verify my orders," Azhar said, according to Malaysiakini.

In response, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said that the actions taken by the police were "to protect Parliament" and MPs' health

Hamzah, who is also Larut MP, served as the Perikatan Nasional Home Minister at the time of the incident.

"Parliament has postponed its session. Hence the reason, when the order not to be allowed to enter (sic), the police took the power in accordance with Act 342," he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.

He cited the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, from which all pandemic-related orders have originated from.

"So what is our problem here?" said Hamzah.

Hamzah went on to say that he has no choice but to compound the participating MPs, as to avoid "double standards"

"At the time, there was standard operating procedures (SOPs) that stated we cannot have gatherings anywhere," the minister said plainly.

However, he said that after discussions with Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, they decided to lower the compounds from RM3,000 to RM1,000 each.

"There cannot be double standards between the MPs and other rakyat who also had similar gatherings, so we were forced to. I apologise," Hamzah said, as reported by Malaysiakini.

Read our coverage leading up to the 2 August march: