KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Dewan Rakyat postponed its proceedings for five minutes on Tuesday afternoon (July 24) due to a lack of quorum.
The delay only lasted several minutes but the matter was widely spread on social media.
Pictures tweeted by Tan Sri Annuar Musa, a Barisan Nasional lawmaker for the parliamentary ward of Ketereh in Kelantan, showed an almost empty hall at various times.
Under Standing Orders 13, there must be at least 26 MPs in the 222-seat Dewan to allow proceedings to be held.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Arrif Md Yusof had ordered the House to stand down after Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi (PBB-Kapit) noted that there was not enough MPs present.
"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 after the lunch break.
Mohamad Ariff took note of the Sarawak MP's observation and stopped proceedings. The bell was rung for two minutes to prompt lawmakers elsewhere in the Parliament building to enter the Dewan.
The proceedings resumed after Mohamad Ariff announced that there were 35 MPs in the hall.
It is understood that some MPs had attended the funeral of Balakong assemblyman Eddie Ng on Tuesday (July 24).
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Monday (July 24) expressed his dissatisfaction over the attendance of his Cabinet members and their deputies in Parliament.
He said ministers and deputy ministers should improve on their attendance records or have valid reasons if they cannot make it.
Last week, former minister and now opposition lawmaker Khairy Jamaluddin also questioned why the government's front bench was empty during the motion of thanks on the Royal Address.
"Not even a single Cabinet Minister in the Dewan Rakyat to listen to the Opposition leader's speech," the Rembau MP had tweeted.
Facebook user Afiq Ghazali said the ministers were working hard as the country's debt was RM1 trillion.
But another user, Iskandar Suw, pointed out that not all MPs had ministerial duties.
"Other MPs should put their commitment in Parliament and bring the rakyat's issues there," he said.
Jasper Dasper suggested that allowances of absent MPs be cut and demerit points be given for "absence without solid reasons".
Former minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim shared a similar view in a tweet, adding that another measure could be the publication of the names of "lazy" MPs in newspapers or on social media.
He also suggested cutting the allowances of absentee MPs as a way to overcome the issue of insufficient quorum in Parliament.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Salahuddin Ayub agreed with the proposal to cut allowances of MPs who skip Parliament sittings.
"If they purposely miss Dewan Rakyat sittings without valid reasons, it is appropriate for their respective parties to take action," he told reporters when met at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday (July 24).
Salahuddin, who is Kulai MP, said the MPs concerned should be given every opportunity to explain their absence, reported Bernama news agency.
Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad said on Wednesday (July 25) ensuring enough quorum in Parliament is the responsibility of lawmakers from both sides of the political divide.
Khalid, who is MP for Shah Alam, added that the Opposition should stop taking "cheap shots" over the matter.
"If there is not enough quorum, it means that the Opposition also did not have enough members (in the Dewan Rakyat at that time).
"This is not a playing matter. This is a cheap shot."