Mahathir should bring out the axe for a major Cabinet reshuffle if Ministers fail to turn over a new leaf in the winding-up of 2002 Budget debate both to  reply personally and  to address intelligently and responsibly the challenges facing the country

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Monday): Over the weekend, the local mass media reported  the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad saying  that the  grievances raised by several Barisan Nasional MPs relating to the performance of some Ministers had been resolved after  a meeting with Barisan Nasional MPs  at his Putrajaya office.

Apart from describing   these grievances as  “an internal matter”, no details had been given  as to how the recent  memorandum by the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club listing five Ministers who should be sacked because of their ineffectiveness and competence had been resolved.

All that the public have been told was that the Prime Minister  touched on the issue of quorum in the Dewan Rakyat, reminding the Barisan Nasional MPs that it was the responsibility of MPs to attend the Parliament sittings and asking them to draw up a roster to resolve the perennial problem of “no quorum” during parliamentary proceedings.

This is most unsatisfactory, as the issue of  ineffective and incompetent Ministers, to the extent that Barisan Nasional MPs had listed  five such Ministers who should be sacked, is not just a private issue between the Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional MPs but a public interest issue of direct concern to 22 million Malaysians who want a high standard of administration and  governance in the country.

The problem of ineffective and incompetent Ministers is directly linked to the problem of ineffective and incompetent MPs, which is highlighted by the perennial problem of  “no quorum” in the House.

How can Mahathir’s latest advice and proposal of a “roster” for BN MPs  resolve the chronic problem of  “no quorum” in Parliament when  his clear and  stern warning to BN  MPs   to be present at all Dewan Rakyat  meetings or be dropped at the next general election at the very start of the  new  Parliament in December 1999 has proved to be such  a flop, despite the installation of closed-circuit TV in his office in Putrajaya to give him live coverage of parliament sittings?

The problem of incompetent and ineffective MPs and the disease of “no quorum” in Parliamentary sittings cannot be eliminated without first tackling the problem of incompetent and ineffective Ministers and end  their world record of Ministerial absenteeism from Parliamentary proceedings.

At present, the Ministerial Parliamentary benches are empty 95 per cent of the year except for the Yang di Pertuan Agong’s annual royal  address, the Budget speech or any Prime Ministerial parliamentary appearance where advance notice had been given.

In actual fact and which is the practice in other Commonwealth Parliaments, Ministers should regularly be in attendance in Parliament to answer parliamentary questions  and to reply in debates except when they are compelled to be absent by important and urgent affairs of state - which should be publicly disclosed!
Mahathir should bring out the axe for a major Cabinet reshuffle if Ministers fail to turn over a new leaf in the two-day  winding-up of 2002 Budget debate starting tomorrow, both to  reply personally and  to address intelligently and responsibly the challenges facing the country.

Ministers who could not reply personally to the 2002 Budget debate should give Parliament and the nation a good and satisfactory explanation, or they should give an equally good and satisfactory  reason why they should not be axed in a major reshuffle to eliminate the deadwood from the Cabinet.

But personally replying to the 2002 Budget debate is not enough evidence of competence and effectiveness  - the Ministers must be able to intelligently and responsibly address the challenges facing the country, especially in the fields which come directly under their respective Ministerial responsibilities.

Malaysians have been shocked by the recent degradation and debasement of Parliament where parliamentary misconduct like the use of the four-letter F-word and histrionics like the BN MP for Hulu Langat, Datuk Badrul Hisham Abdul Aziz mimicking the moans and groans of bedroom sex  scenes have become commonplace.

What Malaysians  are looking forward to in  the next two days of  Ministerial winding-up of   the 2002 Budget are  answers or guidance  to teeming and complex  questions and issues, especially with Malaysia and the world confronted with fast-paced changes in the global political, economic and international  scenario in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Among the myriad of issues which Cabinet Ministers should address in the two-day winding-up debate of the 2002 Budget are:


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman