Govt backbencher calls for Parliament to publish attendance list after MPs skip sitting

Azril Annuar
Subang MP Wong Chen posted an observation on his Facebook page that a typical daily attendance rate is an abysmal 20 to 30 per cent, while the minimum requirement for proceedings to continue is 26 MPs or 12 per cent of the total members of the Lower House. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 ― Subang MP Wong Chen has called for Parliament to publish a list of its daily attendance as a “cure” to absenteeism in the Dewan Rakyat, in response to insufficient members to continue the post-lunch debates yesterday.

The government backbencher posted an observation on his Facebook page that a typical daily attendance rate is an abysmal 20 to 30 per cent, while the minimum requirement for proceedings to continue is 26 MPs or 12 per cent of the total members of the Lower House.

“There is also the matter of MPs attending committee meetings in the Parliament building. When the quorum count was done yesterday at 4pm in Parliament, some 8 MPs including myself were in our PAC hearing.

“We had to suspend our PAC hearing and rush back into the Dewan to make up the quorum. So while committee MPs are sitting in official Parliament meetings such as a PAC hearing (as opposed to drinking coffee in the MP lounge), other MPs need to do their bit to be physically in the Dewan.

“Bottomline, Parliament should publish a list of daily attendance. There is no greater cure to tak apa and sluggishness, than some transparency. Then let the absent MPs explain why they couldn't be there. Sick leave and those overseas on official business/conferences can be excused,” he said.

The PAC refers to the Public Accounts Committee, an internal bipartisan panel of MPs that act to check and balance government decisions and agencies.

Wong added that MPs should voluntarily declare their annual attendance rate and also calls upon NGOs to be watchdogs and publish the Lower House's attendance rate, akin to the South Korean parliament.

The PKR lawmaker said that throughout his six and a half years in Parliament, the House is only filled up to nearly 99 per cent when the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is delivering his annual address and on Budget announcements.

He said that even during important legislative votes, there is only a 70 per cent to 90 per cent attendance rate.

The lowest is usually after 3pm on Thursdays where the rate is below 15 per cent as many lawmakers from distant constituencies head to the airport to their flights to their home base since there are no meetings on Friday.

When the Dewan Rakyat sitting starts at 10am, the attendance rate is usually around 15 to 20 per cent.

“Now, whose responsibility is it to be in Parliament to ensure quorum is met? Everybody has to do their bit but the cabinet has to lead the way. With 55 ministers and deputy ministers, they should at least meet the very minimum 12 per cent attendance rate themselves, i.e at least 7 ministers/deputy ministers in attendance at all times in Parliament.

“The remaining attendees can be topped up the other MPs, supplying the balance 19 attendees to meet the minimal 26 quorum. However on most days, there is only one to three ministers/deputy ministers in attendance. And in the case of Khairy's budget speech a few days ago, he complained about an empty cabinet front bench,” said Wong.

However, he acknowledged his fellow lawmakers’ busy schedules but insisted that they should not let the number fall below 70 per cent on a daily average.

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