It is most distressing to see Parliament marginalised and isolated from the great and burning issues of the people and country, like the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) examination multi-scandal and the constitutionality and propriety of the appointment of Datuk Abdul Gani Patail as the new Attorney-General.
There is a total lack of seriousness and political will on the part of Parliament to address the concerns of the people, whether about the outcome of police investigations into the University Malaya's Dewan Tunku Canselor (DTC) fire on June 29 or the recent spate of church fires in various parts of the country.
Parliament also shirked from its duty to focus on reports which it had imposed a statutory duty to be presented to Parliament, like the two Suhakam reports on human rights - the first Suhakam annual report and the report on freedom of assembly - when there should be a special debate on the Suhakam reports, including the one on the Kesas Highway Incident with the Suhakam findings of widespread police violations of human rights.
Following the bad example of the Ministerial front-bench, which holds the Commonwealth Parliamentary record in terms of parliamentary absence, the Barisan Nasional MPs are so habituated to parliametnary indolence that they find it quite an impossible feat to ensure that there is a quorum in the House, with some of their seniors flying into a rage when such parliamentary indolence is highlighted in the media by a daily count of parliamentary attendance.
The parliamentary farce reaches new heights when only six MPs are allowed to debate, at 10 minutes each, every Ministry’s 2002 budgetary estimates even though hundreds of millions, billions or even tens of billions of ringgit of public funds are involved - and 18 days stipulated in Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders for a detailed Ministry-by-Ministry examination and scrutiny of the following year’s budgetary proposals at the committee stage are truncated to ten days!
The pathetic state of parliamentary affairs is best exemplified by the Parliamentary home-page. As one who nagged the Parliamentary homepage into existence on May 21, 1996, I had lambasted it as a “national disgrace” because of its utter lack of imagination, interactivity and creativity during a Parliamentary debate six months after its inception, and there is no reason for me to change my opinion six years later.
In the past two years, the only feature the Parliamentary homepage had tried to provide is the Hansard, the daily record of parliamentary debates and proceedings.
A visit to the parliamentary homepage for the Hansards of the current Dewan Rakyat meeting will find only the Hansards up to November 21, 2001, which is two weeks ago - when the websites of Parliaments of countries which are serious about information and communications technology provide promptly daily Hansards within 24 hours.
When will Parliament post on its site the Hansards for the rest of the
parliamentary meeting, which is to meet until next Tuesday? Not until after
the Hari Raya, or most probably next year, according to a note on the web-page,
“Hansard Dewan Rakyat akan dikeluarkan/dipaparkan selepas Hari Raya. Harap Maklum.”
This is a tragic commentary on the total lack of IT mind-set and culture of the administration of Parliament, as well as Members of Parliament and the government - which cannot bode well for the success of national aspirations to take the quantum leap to position Malaysia at the world’s cutting edge of the information revolution!
In the remaining five sittings before Dewan Rakyat prorogues until a new parliamentary term next March, are the MPs prepared to repair their tattered parliamentary image and demonstrate their seriousness purpose and commitment?