Hornbill Unleashed

November 13, 2014

YB, why do we need you in Parliament?

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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MARIA CHIN ABDULLAH

On Nov 11, 2014, a question was raised by Tony Pua (DAP-Petaling Jaya Utara) to Deputy Finance Minister Chua Tee Yong about Putrajaya’s letter of support for 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-linked commercial company, as well as a land deal for the relocation of defence units from land marked for the government development project, Bandar Malaysia.

In addition, a total of RM50.4 billion was allocated by the Finance Ministry under the 2015 Budget.

A good issue for debate, but what happened next was shocking although perhaps not unexpected! When Anthony Loke called for a bloc vote to stop the budget allocation, there were only 91 Members of Parliament (MPs) present at the parliament. The budget allocation was passed with 57 votes for and 34 against. Appallingly, this means that 131 MP were not even present in the Dewan Rakyat when the voting was carried out.

The absence of MPs at Parliament has often been raised as a concern. Some examples include:

1. Then-Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had criticised both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat MPs for being absent from Parliament. He had lamented: “I’m very disappointed. You guys must be here. Postpone your other engagements and attend Parliament sitting”. He also reprimanded government ministers and deputy ministers for being absent saying,” Your job is to the country, not party.” (June 28, 2012)

2. Azmin Ali and Lim Kit Siang had fumed over the absence of then-transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein from a proposed briefing on the MH370 incident for Pakatan Rakyat MPs. (April 1, 2014)

3. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim raised the issue of the poor attendance of some MPs. (June 18, 2014)

4. Bakri MP Er Teck Hwa observed that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had showed up for only three days during the parliamentary sittings this year. However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim dodged questions about the poor attendance record of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in Parliament. (June 18, 2014)

We must all take this ‘missing in action’ by our Members of Parliament seriously and demand their immediate action and attendance. They were elected by voters and voters must and should expect the highest standard from MPs. Without doubt, their roles and responsibilities are not only with their own political parties but also with their electorates.

Many a time, we hear MPs saying that they have to be with the people but they cannot use that as blanket excuses for not appearing at Parliament. MPs are all obliged and expected to serve at their constituencies as well as attending Parliament sessions to develop and legislate substantive policies and laws.

Parliamentary Standing Order 13 stipulates that any Dewan Rakyat sitting could only be called if there is a minimum quorum of 26 MPs, excluding the speaker. While this seems a low quorum, it must not be the reason for low attendance.

The MPs’ first duty

MPs are paid with taxpayers’ money to defend the interests of voters in Malaysia but it is pretty difficult to do that if they do not even bother to turn up to vote. Helping to fight the general election campaign is all very well but MPs’ first duty is to make sure that Malaysian laws coming out of the Parliament are good for the citizens and hence their electorates.

The salaries of MPs and elected government representatives are governed by the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act.

“Members of Parliament play an increasingly important role for the local community. They are leaders who need to lead the people in various aspects, including welfare, religion, social and education. In other words, their services are needed at all hours to reflect their responsibility…” When all is said and done – perhaps the prime minister, too, should take a leaf from his recommendation and improve his frequency to the parliament.

Besides, the salaries for the top leadership are as follows: Prime Minister (RM 22,826.65), deputy prime minister (RM18,168.15), minister (RM14,907.20), member of senate (RM4,112.79), MPs (RM6,508.59) and the leader of the opposition (additional RM3,846.59) [Malaysian Insider].

Prior to the proposed salary increment, a member of parliament (MP) earns a basic salary of RM6,508.59 with other allowances totalling to about RM5,000 a month. Under the Statute Paper 235 of the act, MPs are also given allowable claims including entertainment (RM1,500), driver (RM1,200), travel (RM1,500), telephone (RM900) and a daily allowance of RM200, apart from meetings by government agencies which are set at RM150 a day.

It has been recommended that effective from Jan 1, 2014, a rise in allowance will be enjoyed by 222 members of parliament (MP). Prime Minister Najib had said that allowances of MPs of the Dewan Rakyat would be increased from the equivalent grade 54 to equivalent grade Jusa C, while those of Dewan Negara MPs would be increased from equivalent grade 48 to equivalent between grade 54 and Jusa C.

But honestly, one may ask: Why do taxpayers need to pay MPs to be absent from Parliament? Resources could be better allocated elsewhere.

Presently, the public respect for the functioning of the esteem Parliament has been tremendously eroded. We have had MPs turning the August House into a marketplace where everyone tries to ‘out-shout’ each other; name calling; sexist comments – and all these done without batting an eye.

This indeed adds to the general perception that the parliament has declined due to deterioration in the quality of members, poor levels of participation and the like. Low attendance, too, does not garner well in regaining public confidence.

Parliament is the supreme representative institution of the people and that representation must be in real time and with high quality.


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3 Comments »

  1. What exactly is 1MDB’s scope? Sovereign wealth funds should be managed by Khazanah. Parking it in Caymen Island smells like trying to hide something. What exactly is the profit out of? Oil & Gas venture in Malaysia? How is the profit made? If 1MDB needs to borrow to invest and make money outside of Malaysia, then its very fishy deal. Even private sector would not go so far to borrow money to invest in something outside their scope. If excess funds, then makes sense to invest. Borrowed money, smells like a ponzi scheme. There are manay questions remain unanswered such as why 1MDB not Khazanah doing the job? Concerns of 1MDB investment is huge and it involves “duit rakyat”.

    Comment by Ronraj — November 18, 2014 @ 5:42 PM | Reply

  2. 1MDB is the biggest financial scandal to hit Malaysia!

    Comment by Stevie — November 15, 2014 @ 12:21 PM | Reply

  3. Thanks Maria for educating readers like me on the importance of Parliament attendance . Now we know why our views are NOT HEARD by the authorities !

    Comment by teres6842550 — November 15, 2014 @ 3:43 AM | Reply


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