(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Ministers and MPs should set the public example of discipline so important in facing up to the national economic crisis by taking their parliamentary duties seriously through regular attendance of Parliamentary meetings as well as ensuring that the shameful spectacle of no quorum would not be repeated.
Last Wednesday, the Dewan Rakyat was adjourned twice within 10 minutes due to lack of quorum, once at 7.42 p.m., when there were only 11 MPs in the House and another time, when there were only nine MPs.
The lack of quorum in Parliament last Wednesday is a reflection of the woeful absence of discipline and the lack of seriousness of Barisan Nasional MPs to discharge their parliamentary duties although they command almost nine-tenth of the parliamentary seats.
Although the DAP had only nine MPs, there were three DAP MPs in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday night, which was some 33 per cent of our parliamentary representation. The Barisan Nasional, with some 170 MPs, had only eight MPs in the chamber, which was only some four per cent of its parliamentary representation.
The people of Malaysia are entitled to ask whether they had made a wise decision to give the Barisan Nasional such a landslide victory in the 1995 general elections to the extent that they command almost nine-tenth of the parliamentary seats when the Barisan MPs lack the basic responsibility of ensuring that there is at least a quorum during parliamentary proceedings - which only required the presence of 26 MPs!
However, it may be unfair to be too harsh on Barisan Nasional MPs when many Barisan Nasional Ministers are infamous for neglecting their parliamentary duties, with some acquiring the dubious reputation of being "leading parliamentary truants" who never appear in the Dewan Rakyat to personally answer questions or to reply to speeches.
The four MCA Ministers, led by the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik are most guilty of such parliamentary irresponsibility and truancy.
There is no reason why the MCA Ministers should be so remiss in their parliamentary duties, when senior UMNO Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Foreign Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, could regularly take the floor in Parliament to answer questions or reply to speeches.
The Cabinet should issue a directive to Barisan Nasional MPs to set the public example of discipline when the country is facing a national economic crisis by taking their parliamentary duties seriously through regular attendance as well as ensuring that the shameful spectacle of no quorum would not be repeated; while all Cabinet Ministers should be directed to perform their parliamentary duties diligently by regularly appearing in Parliament to personally answer questions or to reply to speeches.
In this connection, various rules which were introduced during the current meeting of Parliament, such as the 10-minute speech limit for MPs during the committee stage of the Budget debate as well as the slashing of the traditional nine-day general policy budget debate for MPs to eight days should be abandoned, as they undermine the purpose and dignity of Parliament.
There is an urgent need for the Cabinet to grapple with the problem of the decline in discipline of Cabinet Ministers and government MPs, as this problem is spreading to the various states, as highlighted by the irresponsible action of the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud during the recent Sarawak haze emergency, who secretly left for overseas to enjoy clean air in foreign lands when he should be in the country to provide leadership to Sarawakians and the forced adjournment of the Malacca State Assembly last Friday because of the lack of a quorum - the 17th time in recent Malacca State Assembly history.