Such a warning to Barisan Nasional MPs, which had been given many times in the past, has again proved to be a failure to ensure that Barisan Nasional MPs are consistent and diligent in their parliamentary duties and attendance so that at any one time there would be at least 26 out of the total of 193 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat to provide a quorum when in session.
As New Straits Times last Friday (26.10.2001) reported with the blaring heading “Attendance record of MPs worsening - They skip sittings despite allowance”, MPs’ attendance in the Dewan Rakyat was “getting from bad to worse”. There were only 11 MPs in the House at 2.30 p.m. last Thursday - “a common scene since the sitting started on Oct. 8” - and at 5 p.m., there was still no quorum with only 24 MPs.
The report said:
“The House is always short of quorum (26 MPs) especially after the lunch break but proceedings will not be disrupted until the lack of quorum is brought to the attention of the Chair.”
This is a very serious and totally unprecedented problem, as it is not Parliament momentarily not having quorum as in the past, but chronically not having quorum for the second half of the daily Parliamentary proceedings after lunch!
In the past, the Prime Minister’s ticking off to MPs for not attending Parliament would bring about an immediate but very short-lived improvement - as the Barisan Nasional MPs would invariably and quickly lapse into their customary habit of playing truant from the Dewan Rakyat by absenting themselves.
As the quorum problem has now degenerated into a chronic parliamentary disease, Mahathir should issue a last warning to BN MPs that they would be dropped at the next general elections if they continue to play truant as to be unable to ensure a quorum in Parliament.
The disease of Barisan Nasional MPs playing truant by not attending Dewan Rakyat sittings regularly cannot be eliminated, however, unless Cabinet Ministers can set a good example and stop their equally bad habit of playing truant from their parliamentary duties.
Malaysian Cabinet Ministers probably hold the world’s record in their rate of absenteeism from Parliamentary proceedings. If there are to be no more empty seats in the Barisan Nasional back-benches in the Dewan Rakyat, the spectacle of empty Ministerial benches should also be a thing of the past.
Mahathir should direct the Cabinet Ministers to surrender their world record for the highest rate of absenteeism from parliamentary proceedings and to regard their attendance and performance in Parliament as one of their top responsibilities, higher in priority than any ribbon-cutting ceremony or karaoke sessions.
It is precisely because Cabinet Ministers are the worst offenders in
the performance of their parliamentary duties that discipline among
the backbenchers are so lax as to be completely non-existing, to the extent
four-letter F-word could be uttered for the first time in the 42-year history of Parliament by a government MP, without penalty in Parliament or discipline by the Barisan Nasional leadership.
Ministers seem to be afraid of their backbenchers, as if held to ransom, as when a Barisan Nasional MP called for the sacking of ineffective Ministers, with the Barisan Nasional Backbenches’ Club following up the call and informing the media that it has submitted a list of five Ministers who should be sacked from the Cabinet to the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
These five Ministers blacklisted by the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club should come forward to defend their record of performance or resign from office, as there is no way they could be respected in Parliament or look MPs in the eye, when they know they are regarded by their backbenchers as incompetent and deadwood!