Time for hackneyed warnings about MPs' absenteeism past and over as Barisan Nasional should release a blacklist of MPs who will be dropped in next general election unless they buck up immediately and stop creating "no quorum" scandals in Parliament

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Saturday): Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday urged Barisan Nasional MPs to be more serious in attending parliamentary sittings to ensure that the House has enough quorum for its meetings.

He in particular wants backbenchers to ensure that the next Parliament sitting beginning on Monday has adequate quorum and a recurrence of absenteeism avoided.

Surely the time for pleas and appeals to Barisan Nasional MPs to do their most basic duty to attend parliamentary meetings are past and over, as it is time for the big stick to be brought out to compel MPs to honour their undertakings in the last general election to be dutiful and conscientious elected representatives.

The Barisan Nasional MPs may have forgotten the stern warning given by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad to them in the first week of meeting of the new Parliament in December 1999, that they should be present at all Dewan Rakyat meetings or be dropped at the next general election.

I had predicted at the time that such a warning was unlikely to have any lasting effect on the performance of Barisan MPs as it had been given many times in the past and was only good for one day's news headlines and another day of editorializing - to be quickly forgotten by both the giver and the recipients, as evident by the frequent inability of the Barisan Nasional MPs to ensure a quorum of at least 26 MPs in Parliament in the past three-and-a-half years, despite having more than two-thirds parliamentary majority.

The time for hackneyed warnings about MPs' absenteeism should be past and over with, as it is time for the Barisan Nasional leadership to release a blacklist of its MPs who will be dropped in the next general election for their absenteeism unless they buck up immediately and stop creating "no quorum" scandals in Parliament.

I have no doubt that the release of such a blacklist would have an instant and electrifying effect in instilling in all the Barisan MPs an overwhelming sense of responsibility and commitment to be diligent in their parliamentary duties and that there would be no more "no quorum" problems in the Malaysian Parliament henceforth.

Abdullah also wants Barisan Nasional MPs to improve their understanding of current issues to play an effective role in the next parliamentary meeting.

The Malaysian Parliament has often suffered from a dearth of informed and intelligent debates, which is another manifestation of the "First World infrastructure, Third World mentality" malaise which was pinpointed by Abdullah in his Oxbridge speech two days ago.

Malaysia has a "First World" Parliament Building comparable to any developed country, but "Third World" parliamentary library, research and back-up facilities for MPs making it impossible for MPs to participate in an informed and intelligent manner in parliamentary debates on the multifarious and great issues affecting the people and the world.

This may be the reason why there are so much "horse-play" and even sexist remarks and innuendos on the floor of the House coming from the Barisan Nasional MPs in the absence of better things to do, as they have still to develop the culture and mindset of a "First World" Parliament.

This is also the reason for the absence of serious parliamentary debates and proceedings, with high-powered research facilities for MPs, both from a strong research services unit in the Parliament library and the provision of fully-paid research assistants for MPs , the establishment of Parliamentary specialist committees for MPs to specialize in different policy fields and frequent parliamentary inquiries to conduct independent investigations into issues and questions of public importance.

Barisan Nasional MPs are not in the least concerned about these grave parliamentary shortcomings which reduced the Malaysian Parliament to a "Third World mentality" status - as they are only interested in getting more money for Barisan Nasional MPs (denied to the Opposition) for distribution in their respective constituencies as "minor development projects" to buy votes - another "Third World Mentality".

As the Government Whip, Abdullah should set up an all-party parliamentary committee in Parliament next week to propose parliamentary reforms so that the Malaysian Parliament is not only a "First World Infrastructure" but also "First World Mentality" - inviting public representations from MPs and non-MPs for their views and input.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman