16 December, 2009

Consider Legislating Proxy Votings For Parliament

I refer to the incident in Parliament yesterday, whereby substantial members of Parliament failed to turn up for an important debate and voting of the national 2010 Budget. As a result, the national 2010 Budget was passed by a thin majority of 66-63 in favour of the national 2010 Budget.

However, the pertinent issue in the incident is not the thin majority of just 3 votes. It is the number of absentees of members of Parliament that is mind boggling, from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

On record, there are only 129 members out of the whole 222 members of Parliament who attended the debate and voting of the national 2010 Budget. That’s only about 58% attendance for the debate and voting of an important issue, being the national 2010 Budget.

It is disappointing, as a Malaysian, to see 42% of our representatives in the Parliament failed to attend for the debate and voting of the national 2010 Budget. So, does the voting yesterday really represent the votes and views of all Malaysian representatives around the country? Or does it just represent the votes and views of only those representatives that attended the sitting yesterday?

This should be an “eye opener” for Malaysians to see how they are represented in the Parliament.

It is a known practice around the world that it may not always be possible for all Members of Parliament 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 yesterday Parliament sittings, who are holding the position of members of state assembly as well as in the Parliament. Although it 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 Parliamentarian obligations.

Member of Parliament are actually voted by their respective constituencies and paid by the taxpayers to attend and represent them in the Parliament sittings, no matter how trivial the matter that would be 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, fulfilling duties of national interest or even on medical leave.

Thus, it may be time for our Parliament to consider legislating and implementing “proxy votings” in our Parliament i.e. members of Parliament are entitled to appoint an alternate person to vote on his behalf in Parliament when there is genuine reason for absence. The members of Parliament shall be responsible for the conduct and votes of their respective proxies in Parliament.

This is to ensure that the Parliament actually represents the votes and views of all Malaysians’ representatives in their respective constituencies, instead of just the votes and views of those who attended the sittings.