(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz, tried to make political capital out of the fact that there was not a single Opposition member in the Dewan Rakyat during extended hours on Thursday before the Dewan Rakyat was adjourned sine dine.
Nazri hit out at the absent Opposition members at 8.40 p.m. on Thursday night, asking: "Where is the PBS, where is DAP, where is PAS - they’re totally absent"
I cannot speak for the PBS and PAS MPs, but all the eight DAP MPs were absent at that time because they were all in Teluk Intan to help in the by-election campaign. DAP MPs were not playing truant from their political duties - unlike the Barisan Nasional MPs.
Earlier on the same day, however, DAP MPs had actively taken part in the debate on the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill. DAP MP for Jelutong, Karpal Singh, DAP MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw and myself had all spoken on the Bill.
The more pertinent question is where were the 169 Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs on the last day of the Parliamentary meeting on Thursday?
According to the Parliament Watch maintained by New Straits Times, at 6.15 p.m. on Thursday, there was no quorum in the House which required 26 MPs, as there were only 18 MPs in the House.
What is the use of the Barisan Nasional winning such a unprecedented landslide victory in the April 1995 general elections, controlling about 90 per cent of all the Parliamentary seats, when at 6.15 p.m. on Thursday, it could not even muster a quorum of 26 MPs?
Undoubtedly, when Nazri asked rhetorically "Where is the PBS, where is DAP, where is PAS…." at 8.40 p.m. later the same evening, there would have been fewer than 18 MPs in the House!
In fact, according to the Parliament Watch maintained daily by New Straits Times since the beginning of the recent Parliamentary meeting on March 25, it was not uncommon for the House to be without quorum, e.g. for the 6.15 p.m. watch, there were only 11 MPs on April 2, 22 on April 3, 22 on April 10, 20 on April 14, 21 on April 16, 17 on April 24, 20 on April 30, and 22 on May 7. Even for the 4.30 p.m. watch, there were five days when Parliament did not have a quorum, i.e. 25 MPs on April 3, 7 and 8; 21 on April 16 and 20 on April 30.
As NST maintains the attendance watch at three specified times, namely 2.30 p.m., 4.30 p.m. and 6.15 p.m., it is obvious that attendance at the non-specified times especially after 6.15 p.m. would be even worse - falling at times to below 10 MPs!
The Parliamentary Watch of New Straits Times shows the seriousness of the problem of Ministers and MPs playing truant from their duties in Parliament.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, should issue a strong directive to Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and MPs to take their parliamentary duties more seriously and to cut down the high rate of truancy in Parliament.
There is also a need for Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MPs to read up and understand the Parliamentary Standing Orders, so that no MP would make a fool of himself raising points of order as a result of a total lack of understanding of the Standing Orders - as happened in the case of one Deputy Minister in the recent Parliamentary meeting.
There is also a need for greater humility by MPs and preparedness to learn, rather than claiming to be experts in certain subjects when they are not.
A good example was the MCA MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Vincent Lim, who interrupted my speech on the Copyright Amendment Bill on 12th May. I was then discussing the problem of "reverse engineering" of computer software.
The practice of reverse engineering has a lengthy history in more traditional industries and typically involves the purchase and dismantling of the products of a competitor. In the computer context, reverse engineering may involve the study of the operation of a computer program in order to discover its specifications.
Vincent Lim stood up and challenged me for referring to reverse engineering with regard to computer software, claiming that reverse engineering does not apply at all to computer software.
Outside the Chambers, Vincent Lim wanted to argue that I was wrong to talk about reverse engineering in the computer software context but I refused to be drawn into an argument.
The next day, I sent Vincent Lim a bibliography on "Understanding Software Systems Using Reserve Engineering Technologies - Research and Practices" downloaded from the Internet, with a note "For Your Education".
The bibliography contained over 500 titles of articles and papers on software reverse engineering, including numerous software reverse engineering forums, seminars and conferences in different parts of the world.
This was why I had advised Vincent Lim in Parliament when he interrupted and challenged me last Monday that it would be wise for him to keep his mouth shut, for no one would know that he does not know; but once he opens his mouth, everybody would know he does not know.
Vincent Lim made news today for being a victim of a cloned handphone gang to the tune of a bill for RM2,718.89, including over RM2,500 on overseas calls between April 22 and 25 which he never made. He has my sympathies.
But what I find outrageous is that he had to seek the assistance from the MCA Public Services and Complaints Bureau chief Michael Chong to help resolve his problem - devaluing his position as a Member of Parliament and humilating all MPs.
Vincent Lim must be the only MP who had to seek the assistance of Micahael Chong to help resolve his problems, when MPs are supposed to be able to resolve the people’s problems themselves.
May be I should not be surprised, for Vincent Lim had never dreamed of being Member of Parliament if not for the unexpected disqualification of the DAP candidate in PJ Utara in the April 1995 general elections.