I REFER to the incident in Parliament on 14 Dec 2009 whereby a substantial number of Members of Parliament (MPs) failed to turn up for an important debate and the voting of the 2010 Budget. As a result, the budget was passed by a thin majority of 66-63.
However, the pertinent issue is not the thin majority of just three votes. It is the mind-boggling number of MP absentees from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.
On record, there were only 129 out of a total of 222 MPs who attended the debate and voting. That’s only a 58% attendance for an important issue.
It is disappointing, as a Malaysian, to see that 42% of MPs failed to attend the debate and voting on the national budget. So, did the voting represent the votes and views of all Malaysian representatives around the country? Or did it just represent the votes and views of only those representatives who attended the sitting on 14 Dec?
This should be an “eye opener” for Malaysians about how they are represented in Parliament.
It is a known practice around the world that it may not always be possible for all MPs to attend Parliament sittings all the time due to their hectic schedules, in particular those holding important government positions.
There are even some absentees in Parliament sittings who are state assemblypersons as well as MPs. Although this is permitted under the Federal Constitution, it is now questionable whether a person holding positions in both the state assembly and Parliament would be able to effectively fulfill their parliamentary obligations.
MPs are voted in by their respective constituencies and paid by taxpayers to attend and represent them in Parliament sittings, no matter how trivial the matter that is tabled in the sitting. Their failure to attend Parliament sittings would amount to failure to fulfill their obligations, even in situations where there are genuine reasons to serve the people elsewhere.
Thus, it may be time for our Parliament to consider legislating and implementing proxy voting in our Parliament. This means that MPs are entitled to appoint an alternate person to vote on his or her behalf in Parliament when there is genuine reason for absence. The MPs shall be responsible for the conduct and votes of their respective proxies in Parliament.
This is to ensure that Parliament actually represents the votes and views of all Malaysian representatives and their respective constituencies, instead of just the votes and views of those who attend sittings.
Tan Keng Liang
Kedah Gerakan Youth chief
16 Dec 2009