Ministers are not complying with Abdullah's directive to postpone overseas trips and to answer questions in Parliament

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday): Despite the directive by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Cabinet Ministers to postpone overseas trips during the current meeting of Parliament and to answer questions in Parliament, this is not being complied by most Cabinet Ministers.

During the first week of the present parliamentary meeting, four Ministers are out of the country at one time or another, viz: the Minister for Entrepreneurial Development, Datuk Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (who is unlikely to forget his New Delhi and the grilling he received at the hands of the Indian Ministers), the Minister for Works, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz and the Minister for Transport, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik (which is why Abdullah could not meet him to talk about "black gold" politics in MCA).

The Minister for Health, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, is scheduled to leave the country at the end of the month for India, until it was cancelled by the Indian government in protest against the Palm Court police mistreatment of Inidan IT professionals on Sunday and the government's insensitive and unsatisfactory response to the Indian diplomatic protests.

In other Commonwealth countries, there is a standing directive to Ministers not to go overseas when Parliament is in session so that they could personally respond to questions and speeches of MPs, but in Malaysia, we seem to have the reverse tradition, where Ministers take the opportunity of parliamentary meetings to get out of the country - especially when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad also goes on leave!

Ministers also do not comply with the directive of Abdullah to be in Parliament to answer parliamentary questions personally.

Out of 16 parliamentary questions answered during the last three days of parliamentary sittings from Tuesday to Thursday, only four were answered by Ministers, while seven were answered by deputy ministers and five by parliamentary secretaries.

This is most disgraceful. The excuse that Ministers could not be in Parliament to personally take questions on Wednesday as Cabinet is meeting is a lame one, for two reasons:

  • Firstly, Parliament must take greater precedence than Cabinet and there is no reason why Wednesday's Cabinet meetings could not be adjusted during parliamentary meetings to ensure that Ministers could be in the House to answer questions to give meaning to the principle of Ministerial responsibility to Parliament; and

  • Secondly, even without Cabinet meetings, Ministers are mostly not present in Parliament to answer questions, finding it more important to open "cafes" and conduct their party activities than to perform their most basic parliamentary duties.

With such total lack of Ministerial discipline, it is no wonder that the "no quorum" disease of Barisan Nasional MPs is as serious as ever, with the Dewan Rakyat meeting without a quorum on Thursday - when there were only 20 MPs present in the House at 5.15 p.m.

Abdullah should crack the whip at the Ministers to ensure they attend Parliament to answer parliamentary questions before he could crack the whip at the Barisan Nasional MPs to get them to attend Parliament diligently, to at least form up the quorum of 26 MPs out of 193 MPs. How can there be parliamentary discipline when there is absolutely no Ministerial discipline?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman