Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Parliament's Question Time

In the light of the recent prominence given to MPs who for one reason or other did not submit questions on time to the Parliament for scheduling, I received a comment from a concerned citizen "Freer Parliament", which I thought was certainly worth publishing.

The 21-day notice for MPs to submit questions is archaic in this ICT era. The keying in and arrangement of questions can be done very quickly with a desktop or even a notebook and inserted in the Order Paper within minutes and copies printed equally fast with any high-speed printer.

In the age of the typewriter, 21 days is understandable and not an option. With computers, unless Parliament is without any, there is an option to shorten the notice period to even just days before the oral questions are asked.

In the House of Commons, the notice of questions is at least three days. The questions are then printed in the Commons Questions Book. The order in which the questions are asked is determined randomly by a computer.

An MP in Australia's Parliament may orally ask questions of a Minister without notice for immediate response.

A fundamental principle for Question Time is to empower the people, through their MPs, to question the government and hold it accountable for its action. For greater accountability to prevail, the government should always be kept on its toes. As such, Ministers are expected to know as much as possible and as wide as possible the ongoings in their respective Ministries. Ministers are essentially MPs elected by the people with the extra responsibility of ensuring that the government serves and operates to the satisfaction of the people.

So, when we have Ministers who do their work at all times, there should not be a need for longer-than-necessary notice for questions in Parliament. Lest they forget, many should recall that in their schooldays teachers would often hold surprise tests to determine if their students were actually studying. Or the spot check on hair guideline.

One clear message from the outcome of the general election is that the people want a stronger voice. A stronger voice to check the government and hold it accountable can be better realized if MPs can orally ask questions with the shortest notice period and demand an immediate response. Of course, Ministers should not quickly resort to "minta notis" to delay response.

The option to delay response by invoking "minta notis" should be subject to stricter conditions. It should not apply when a Minister who fails to keep a close watch on matters under his purview. After all, Ministries do send officers to Parliament and they are there to assist their Ministers. "Minta notis" is a triple frustration, first you don't get an immediate response, and then you get a prepared response as a written reply. Thirdly, written replies are quite often lost when they are not noticed by the media which tend to focus on today's questions and not last week's or even yesterday's.

One of the first tasks when Parliament convenes is to review the Standing Order to ensure the removal of any provision that may frustrate the will of the people for greater transparency, governance and accountability. The current 21-day notice will not serve this purpose and needs immediate review.

Today, every party is talking about change and reform. In this spirit, why not then table an emergency motion to immediately suspend the 21-day notice so that questions can be asked even as Parliament is in session. In the spirit of fulfilling the will of the people, such a motion should be allowed for debate because it meets the criteria of definite, urgent and of public importance.

Lastly, it is also time to redefine the definition of "definite, urgent and public importance" so as to empower Parliament to truly play its role as the People's Parliament. "Definite, urgent and public importance" can be better defined in the eyes of the people and not in the eyes of one person, the Speaker.

The people voted for a stronger voice in Parliament and now the MPs must respect this by freeing themselves from "restrictive" provisions of the Standing Order before they can champion a freer Malaysia.

Freer Parliament


Shawn Tan said...

[note]last submission failed[/note]

I was saying that some questions that require exact facts/figures should be submitted in advance, maybe up to a week. This is make Ministers accountable for what they say and not constantly "misquoting" or being "misquoted".

So, let there be two kinds of questions: (1) a main question that requires facts/figures and (2) a follow up question that can be asked on the spot in relation to the main question.

Pop quizzes don't catch anyone except those off guard. I want the Ministers to be doing their work and not worrying about being "tembak" by questions in parliament.

Anonymous said...

new kids on the blog -


Anonymous said...

i know its not the right section to comment . i recently saw teresa kok's site and found out u guys have some celebration dinner.. i was wondering how come you guys did not post on blog or somewhere to inform us ? i went to dapforpj site as well but dont see any post saying there r celebration dinners .. i hope such upcoming event will be inform

DAP all the way !

Anonymous said...


They need 21 days notice so the Ministers can prepare how to lie with their answers. Our Ministers are not working and are not on top of the issues in their ministry so they need longer times to prepare answers or to find out whats happening.

Wonder how many ministers or MPs know how to use the computers?!!

Their minds are always on creative projects that public cant fix a value,,not work for the nation, so more commission.

Anonymous said...

Valid and useful suggestions from both Freer Parliament & Shawn Tan.

The Parliament's administrative procedures must evolve to remain relevant and efficient with current times and available technology.

Anonymous said...


Take a look at how the corrupted Barisan Nasional has been making ordinary people suffer!! My heart aches when I see how the citizens in this country are being treated by their corrupted government!

Angry residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras remove barrier at access road:

One more good reason to vote against BN! A big thank to DAP!!

Anonymous said...

i dont think that tony pua have enough time to attend to the Parliament because he must manage his business in Singapore..

he was here in Malaysia just before the election because before this he is in Singapore..

he is such an established businesman in Singapore..

before this there is nothing he did to Malaysia, his own country or even at his own place, PJU..

so, to people who was vote for him,
dont give your full hope that Tony will bring your voice to Parliament..

maybe he will but just before the end of this year not till the last day of Parliament session..

Anonymous said...


If you wish to assasinate Tony Pua's character, make sure you have sufficient bullets to do so instead of firing blanks.

Tony Pua has sold off all his business interests and is in politics on a full time basis.

If you have the guts, kindly reveal yourself or have your IP address tracked down and get your a** hauled to court for character defamation.

Anonymous said...

Suggestion in conjunction with Climate Change Week: Malaysia shud really look into our environment conservation policy. Just on the recycling part, we are already so much behind Taiwan, Hong Kong, and even China. Shame Shame....

Unknown said...

Dear kabutzalwayz,

Freedom of speech is what we all wish to embrace closely. However, nonsense and baseless accusation is not acceptable in anywhere.

I have been observing your comments on various blogs. I must say, sadly, there is hardly any constructive comments or critical appraisal. There were mostly just some emotional blathers which do nothing but provoking more misunderstanding and hatred among each other.

I am not in the position nor I wish to deter you from voicing your concern, nonetheless, please show to people that you have think it through before you say something. And you are always ready to provide further reference when reqested to do so. Logical and analytical thinking are the means to mentality advancement. Take a look of our parliamentary debates (and I mean the performance of both BN and opposition parties) in the past, it was more like some clowns having their own fun by messing around in the parliament. We take pride in our democratic system modelled after the UK. We are proud to tell others that we are MALAYSIAN and we have DEMOCRACY in our country. But, have we just copied the system, the framework alone, or have we really understood the underlying principles and holding them close to our hearts? Take a look of some of the parlimentary debates at Westminster (on YouTube or BBC), and you will know what I mean. The British MPs are so prepared to take on the questions. My favourite is how Tony Blair (the then PM) was always present in the parliamentary debate to take important questions and they have always come out with arguments and facts that stunned the audience.

So, now, tell me, are you just another clown-to-be or someone who is ready to tell the world that we MALAYSIAN are ready to be the citizen of first-class, developed nation not just in terms of infrastructures but also intellectually and mentally.

Like many others, I have to say, I also have doubt in YB Pua as a freshman in the parliament. However, I am eagerly awaiting to see his performance and him presenting his 'report card' in the next election before I rush to put him down. And of course, I wish he could blow me away. The same wishes go to the BN MPs as well. (especially Datuk Shahrir Abd Samad, he is always one of my favourite) At the end of the day, if you ask me, so do you support BN or PR? Hmmm... I would say, I LOVE MY COUNTRY and I support my country, and I just want to be able to tell the foreigners someday, proudly,"This is my country. Look, these are my MPs. Aren't they intelligent?! I wish I could be as wise as them and talk like them", regardless of party or ethnicity.

My dear fellow countrymen, let's not dwelling in pointing fingers among ourselves. While we are still fighting among overselves on who should get a bigger piece of that Roti Canai (oh well, usually Ali, Ah Chong and Siva only get the crumbles while Datuk and his friends take the whole piece), others (look at our neighbouring countries) are building their own bakeries and factories for bulk production. I have the blessing to work in Vietnam for a short while. I was so shocked in seeing how robust is their economy. Vietnam's GDP growth last year was 8.5% (est., from CIA World Fact Book) and Malaysia, 5.7% (est., from CIA World Fact Book). Our position in world GDP Ranking is 33 and Vietnam is at 36 (CIA World Factbook as of Jan 1, 2007) It then worries me, how long does it take Vietnam to overtake us? Are we ready for the race when the time comes? And we are talking about a country which suffers severe war damage and slumpy economies ruling by the communist party in the past. Whereas us, the blessed Malaysia, having all the resources, basic infrastructures, juridicial and administrative systems in place when gained independence; have we outrun our neighbours yet? And we are just talking about Vietnam, I don't even want to mention Singapore.

Our politicians always make excuses that because Singapore is a much smaller country than Malaysia, HENCE, it's easy to develop and control. It is, however, not convincing at all, to me at least.

Finland, total area of 338,145 sqkm; the GDP per capita is US$35,500. Malaysia, total area of 329,750 sqkm (opps, we are slightly smaller, we must be doing better than); GDP per capita is US$14,400. HUH!? That's not right if my Minister's theory stands.

Let all the people, unite together, do their parts, to raise the country's economy. Our future challenge is globalisation, it's not OURSELVES, our own people. I am not "going back" to China nor anywhere. I might "go to" China sometimes for holiday. Malaysia is where I call home. Some may still like to call me non-bumi, but oh well, you know what, the Aryans don't even bother to figure out the difference between a Malaysian and an Indonesian. They just categorise us as Asian or Southeast Asian, a.k.a. cheaper labours in chaotic countries.

May God bless us all.
Have fun blogging. :)

p/s I am currently researching into procurement of offshore oil and gas platforms in Asia Pacific. If anyone is interested to discuss the topic with me, drop me a line. Cheers. :)

► madi ◄ said...

not 16MAY.. 13MAY..