KUALA LUMPUR • It is only the second week of Malaysia's new Parliament sitting, yet there have been complaints, including from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, that too many ministers and government MPs are failing to show up regularly when the Lower House is in session.
The opposition Umno MPs were more than happy to highlight this issue on Monday and Tuesday by snapping pictures of empty rows of Parliament benches on the opposite side and uploading them on social media.
There were suggestions by a minister and some members of the public yesterday that the allowances of MPs should be cut if they continue to skip parliamentary sittings.
On Monday, Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof ordered the House to stand down as there was a lack of quorum for the session to start. Under its Standing Order 13, there must be at least 26 MPs in the 222-seat House.
Proceedings later resumed after Datuk Mohamad Ariff announced there were 35 MPs present in the hall - just 16 per cent of the total number of MPs.
Tun Dr Mahathir, when told about the low turnout on Monday, had said: "I think they should improve and they should have proper excuses for not attending."
NOT THAT LATE
When the (Parliament) bell was rung for the second time at 2.36pm (on Tuesday), we already had enough quorum. There is no issue here. According to the Parliament Hansard (official transcripts), we were only late for between four and six minutes.
DE FACTO LAW MINISTER LIEW VUI KEONG
If they purposely miss Lower House sittings without valid reasons, it is appropriate for their respective parties to take action.
AGRICULTURE MINISTER SALAHUDDIN AYUB, agreeing with the idea of cutting the allowances of MPs who skip Parliament sittings.
On Tuesday, at around 3.30pm, Umno secretary-general and MP Annuar Musa tweeted a picture showing the empty rows on the government bench, saying: "Only one minister in the House... Yesterday PM had complained but it looked like there was no response."
According to the Parliament website, there are 116 MPs from the four-party Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance. PH's allies in Sabah control another 10 seats.
Together, the 126 seats make up almost 57 per cent of the total 222.
In the opposition benches, the three-party Barisan Nasional coalition has 54 MPs and Parti Islam SeMalaysia another 18. The four-member alliance Gabungan Parti Sarawak has 20 federal lawmakers.
Parti Bersatu Sabah, an opposition party, has one seat. There are also three independent MPs.
Some commentators on social media said 90 of the 222 lawmakers, or nearly 41 per cent, were first-time MPs and perhaps need to understand that after fighting hard to win seats in Parliament, part of their job is to sit in the House.
Reacting to the reports, some PH lawmakers said they had meetings on Monday before turning up at the House later, while on Tuesday, many had gone for the funeral services of a Selangor assemblyman.
Others were furious that the lack of quorum for a short period of time had been turned into a big issue.
Penang MP R.S.N. Rayer said he was present until 9pm on Tuesday to raise issues of public interest. He said the media was not giving a correct picture of what had happened.
De facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said the PH MPs were only late for about six minutes. "When the (Parliament) bell was rung for the second time at 2.36pm (on Tuesday), we already had enough quorum. There is no issue here. According to the Parliament Hansard (official transcripts), we were only late for between four and six minutes."
Not everyone is so forgiving.
Agriculture Minister Salahuddin Ayub agreed with the idea to cut the allowances of MPs who skip Parliament sittings. "If they purposely miss Lower House sittings without valid reasons, it is appropriate for their respective parties to take action," he said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK