June 30, 2022

Mari Ponteng for MP

5 min read

MOST of our Members of Parliament wax eloquent about transparency and accountability, and their speeches are always filled with never-ending promises, likely as a display of devotion to their constituents.

And yet, none of us have been able to get full disclosure on the many absent MPs.

So much for transparency and accountability then.

Why can’t Parliament management reveal the attendance of MPs to us, instead of protecting them as if they were top secret officials who could undermine the nation’s security?

Ironically, we are also expected to swallow the bureaucracy of constituents from the 222 areas having to report their attendance to Parliament.

Deputy Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon was quoted saying that constituents could write to the Parliament management to have an MP’s attendance checked.

He also said it’s not appropriate for Parliament to publicly reveal the attendance of MPs.

“We can get their names, but it isn’t proper for us to spread their names. Whoever wants to know (about MPs attendance), they can meet the Parliament management,” he said.

It appears that the Parliament management is just avoiding embarrassing these lawmakers and making it much harder than need be for the media to snag that list.

As taxpayers footing MPs’ allowances, we surely have the right to know their attendance record, and the Parliament management’s salaries.

We must be privy to the identities of these recalcitrants, who are either too busy with their own businesses or simply indifferent to the affairs of the Dewan Rakyat to attend proceedings.

Honestly, they just find sittings unimportant and unnecessary for themselves.

Such indifference wasn’t the case during the election campaign, though, when they passionately rallied their audience, convincing them they would be the voice of the people.

Well, many haven’t showed up since, and that clutch who projected themselves as daring, and vocal politicians, have turned timid lately as they look up to their political masters while enjoying the power and perks of being in government.

It’s unbelievable that Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said it was a tall order for MPs to remain in the Dewan for long hours because of the temperature.

“It’s not easy for us to stay for a long time. It’s very cold sometimes,” said the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who added that such occurrences were normal.

“I think everywhere in the world, you cannot expect MPs to stay in there all the time,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday.

“That’s why we have a bell for the Speaker to ring. For me, it’s a small matter,” he said, adding that he isn’t worried about the poor attendance of Pakatan Harapan MPs in Parliament.

Well, YB, I don’t think Malaysians will find that reason acceptable at all! Come up with a better excuse, please!

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has pledged that MPs who failed to attend enough Dewan Rakyat sittings would get a dressing-down.

The Prime Minister said Parliament attendance would figure in his decision-making for dropping MPs when he reshuffles his Cabinet.

“We will have to have a talk with the parliamentarians, as they were very anxious to be candidates.

“But after being elected, they are behaving as if they are not serious about serving the people,” Dr Mahathir lamented.

But there’s little room for him to affect a change. Politicians have thick hides and can even smile when being reprimanded, and that’s just about all Dr Mahathir can do.

After all, the absentees also include the front benches comprising ministers and deputies. What can the PM do to them? Precious little.

Recently, only 24 of 222 MPs were present; a quorum requires a minimum of 26 MPs. The Dewan Rakyat sitting was delayed by the Speaker under Dewan Rakyat Meeting Standing Order Number 13 (1). The same thing happened in October, too.

In fact, in July, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Arrif Md Yusof had to order the House to stand down when Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi (PBB-Kapit) noted that the number of MPs present was insufficient.

“There are no ministers or deputy ministers in the House, so can we proceed as there is a lack of quorum?” Alexander asked when the House resumed at 2.30pm following lunch break.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong weighed in, saying it was the government’s duty to ensure they have enough MPs present to endorse the Budget.

“Out of 127 government lawmakers, why can’t you get 40 to 60 MPs at any one time in the House if you don’t want the Opposition to ambush you?” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday.

He said it was the duty of Opposition MPs to keep the government on its toes.

“It is our duty to teach them a lesson, and I hope they have learned it,” he added.

Dr Wee, who is Ayer Hitam MP, also condemned the reasons bandied to justify Pakatan MPs’ absence during voting on the budget.

“There is no excuse for them to say they are new and have no experience, or they are fatigued. To me, this is rubbish and nonsense.

“Don’t find excuses for your weaknesses,” he asserted.

It’s not difficult for most MPs and reporters to pinpoint serial absentees, but unfortunately, they don’t have the stats to corroborate visual findings.

The only effective way to curb this malaise is for Dewan Rakyat to provide the attendance list of MPs, as appropriately suggested by Subang MP Wong Chen.

He also pointed out that a typical daily attendance rate is an abysmal 20% to 30%, while the minimum requirement for proceedings to progress is 26 MPs, or 12% of the entire Dewan Rakyat.

“Bottomline is, Parliament should publish a list of daily attendance. There is no greater cure to tak apa and sluggishness, than some transparency. Then let the absent MPs explain why they couldn’t be there. Sick leave and those overseas on official business/conferences can be excused,” he was quoted.

And if any of us truly believes that attendance is likely to improve soon, then we will believe in everything these MPs have promised us, too.

We can only hope our MPs don’t earn a rep for Mari Ponteng because of their notorious record for truancy.

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