(Petaling Jaya, Friday):I am shocked that the Malaysian Parliament has been reduced into a 10-minute Parliament, when MPs were limited to 10 minutes in their speeches during the start of the committee stage of the debate on the 1998 budget.
I was stopped in my speech in Parliament yesterday during the debate on the Prime Minister's Department and other related subheads on the ground that only 10 minutes were allowed for each MP during the Committee Stage debate.
This is the first time in my 28 years' parliamentary experience when I had been told that I could speak for only 10 minutes on the Prime Minister's Department and related subheads - which constitute one of the most important departments in the government's budget.
The allocations for the Prime Minister's Department for next year is a whopping RM2.67 billion, which covers departments like the Public Services Department, the Attorney-General's Chambers, the Anti-Corruption Agency, and there is also a RM123 million for the various services such as Parliament, the office of Auditor-General, Elections Commission, Public Services Commission and the Education Services Commission.
To impose a blanket 10-minute rule for the Prime Minister's Department, when so many important subjects come under it, is most outrageous. How is any responsible MP to deal with subjects like the ACA, the AG's Chambers, the Elections Commission, the Auditor-General's Office, the Public Services Commission in a matter of 10 minutes, when each of these subjects would require more than 10 minutes to do justice.
Reducing the Malaysian Parliament into a 10-minute Parliament is not only a humiliation to all MPs but downgrading the importance and status of Parliament.
As a result of the ridiculous 10-minute rule, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Mohd. Nazri Abdul Aziz started winding up the debate yesterday, the first full day of the debate, although two full days had been allocated for the Prime Minister's Department - namely Thursday and Monday. It is true that the debate on the Prime Minister's Department started on Wednesday, but there was only time for one MP to speak before the House adjourned for the next day.
There were not enough MPs who wanted to speak to take up the two full days set aside for the debate on the Prime Minister's Departments. MPs who have a lot of things to say were not allowed to do so and were cut off after ten minutes; while the two full days were not taken up as there were not enough MPs who wanted to speak, even for ten minutes.
Five DAP MPs took part in the debate on the Prime Minister's Department, namely Dr. Tan Seng Giaw (Kepong), Lim Hock Seng (Bagan), Chiu Chin Sing (Bintulu), Lim Guan Eng (Kota Melaka) and myself, and everyone of us needed more than ten minutes. And more DAP MPs, like Karpal Singh (Jelutong), Tan Kok Wai (Sungai Besi) and M. Kulasegaran (Teluk Intan) would have spoken on the Prime Minister's Department if the debate had continued on Monday.
I myself would have needed at least one hour, even if I devote ten minutes each to one important subject - the Prime Minister's office, the ACA, the AG's Chambers, the Auditor-General's Office, the Election Commission and the Public Services Commission.
Ten minutes would be too long for lazy and irresponsible MPs who have no intention of discharging their duties to speak up in Parliament, while ten minutes is outrageously short for MPs who conscientiously want to perform their parliamentary responsibilities to be the voice of the people in the highest legislative and political chamber in the land.
It is true I created a ruckus in Parliament yesterday when I was told that there was the ridiculous 10-minute rule, for I was speaking up for the rights of all MPs, regardless of political party, not be treated like school-children and be given at most ten minutes to speak. Barisan MPs told me outside the chamber yesterday that they agreed with me that the 10-minute rule was outrageous, but unfortunately, they dared not speak up to protest.
I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to ensure that the Malaysian Parliament does not degenerate into a 10-minute Parliament, which will make it the laughing stock of Commonwealth Parliaments, and to restore to MPs adequate time to debate during the Committee stage of the 1998 Budget.