It shows the complete lack of seriousness and commitment on the part of Malaysian Cabinet Ministers not only to their Ministerial duties but also to a vibrant and robust parliamentary democracy.
When Parliament is in session, all Cabinet Ministers should be required to explain their absence from Parliament, particularly when their portfolios are raised in Parliament whether during question time or debates, such as the policy debate on the royal address which started yesterday.
In other Commonwealth Parliaments, it is a rarity for Ministers to be absent from Parliament when their Ministries come under the subject of parliamentary scrutiny whether during question time or debates, but in Malaysia, it is a rarity for Ministers to be present when their Ministries are scrutinised in Parliament. Under the circumstances, it is an even greater rarity when Ministers are present in Parliament at all when their Ministries are not specifically the subject of parliamentary discussion.
It was reported today that during the Barisan Nasional MPs’ pre-council meeting on Monday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad commended 12 MPs for achieving 100% attendance in Parliament’s last session. This is a most pathetic figure, not the cause for “applause” by Barisan Nasional MPs when the 12 names were read out by the Prime Minister, but for “commiseration” that only eight per cent of the 148 Barisan Nasional MPs could pass the test of 100% parliamentary attendance.
It is another sign of the increasing irrelevance of Parliament, not only to Ministers but to the Malaysian people, when three motions of urgent definite public importance under Standing Order 18 tabled by DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, Barisan Nasional MP for Tambun Datuk Husni Hanadzlah and the Opposition leader Fadzil Noor (Pendang) on the Kampung Medan clashes were rejected by the Speaker, Tun Zahir Ismail on the ridiculous ground that the one hour allotted for such motions would not be enough, as the matter would take a long time to debate “to have the whole picture of the situation”.
If the Speaker believed that “a long time” would be needed for a debate on the Kampung Medan clashes, then the Speaker should have called in both the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition for arrangements to be made for a special parliamentary debate of at least two days on the Kampung Medan clashes rather than just rejecting the three MP’s attempts to table urgent motions. Without such arrangement for a special debate, one-hour specific debate on the Kampung Medan clashes is better than none! Debating the Kampong Medan clashes in the Royal Debate is not very satisfactory as Parliament would not be able to focus full attention on the single subject, as all other issues and matters could also be raised in a policy debate.
In any event, the Speaker had acted wrongly in rejecting the three motions on the ground that more time will be needed to debate such an issue, as under Standing Order 18, the Speaker could only reject an application if he is satisfied that the matter to be raised is not “definite, urgent and of public importance” and he has no powers to reject on grounds that “a long time” is needed to debate the matter.
The Government had not acted responsibily in failing to arrange for a special parliamentary debate or at least to table a White Paper on the Kampung Medan clashes followed by a debate. Such sins of omission have now been compounded by the sin of commission in the absence of a single Cabinet Minister in Parliament after the question hour for the whole day yesterday to accept a memorandum by 51 NGOs on the Kampung Medan clashes.
It is not too late for Parliament to make amends and to arrange for a special debate on the Taman Medan clashes, which must be given topmost priority as it was the worst clashes in the past 32 years and represented the quadruple failures in nation-building, development planning, law enforcement and mass communications in the country.
The least Parliament should do is to accept the recommendation of the
NGO Memorandum to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to
A special parliamentary debate will also enable MPs to debate the other recommendations of the NGO Memorandum on Kampung Medan clashes, including: