How to deal with MPs who 'ponteng'

When you are elected as an MP, you are sent to Parliament to do serious work. In this august house, you air your views on issues of national importance or vent your spleen on the government for policy failure, broken promises, and misgovernance.

It is not an easy task considering that you also have to formulate laws that could have far-reaching consequences on the destiny of the country. 

The moment you become an MP, you cannot take a rest or a nap. You must always be on your toes to ensure the ship of state is on a steady course.

But there are MPs who treat Parliament like a playground where they can come and gambol as they please. They do not see the need to be in daily attendance whenever Parliament is in session. They think their absence will not have any effect on parliamentary business.

Such apathetic behaviour cannot be tolerated because when you go missing, you are showing disrespect not only to your constituency but also to the institution of parliamentary democracy.

Disciplining truant MPs

How do you deal with MPs who “skip classes”? If you issue them a warning, they might straighten up for just a while and then go back to their tomfoolery.

If you plead with them to get back to duty, it would look as if they are so important that without their presence the health of the country would be severely affected. Begging them to play their role is not the definition of a people’s representative.

Even lecturing them sternly on their responsibility to participate in the democratic process might fall on deaf ears because adults do not like being treated like naughty schoolchildren. By virtue of their standing in society, they feel that they are above reproach.

How then do you deal with MPs who do not show up in the Dewan Rakyat although they are paid to attend? How do you tackle recalcitrant MPs who ignore repeated calls for them to be in their seats during the entire proceeding?

For starters, the prime minister could directly dial those “ponteng” MPs on the government side to show up for the Dewan Rakyat session. He could call them from the Parliament building itself or from his home before the start of the proceeding.

The prime minister could yell at them down the line: “YB, bangun! Pemalas! Jangan you poteng hari ini. Tak malu! Lebih baik you resign!” (“YB, wake up! Lazy bum! Don’t be absent today. Shame on you, better for you to step down!”)

Or gently remind them to observe the most basic duty: “Hello, YB. Selamat pagi. Jangan lupa datang ke Dewan Rakyat. Jumpa lagi.” (“Hello, YB. Good morning. Don’t forget to be at the Dewan Rakyat. See you later.”)

A call from the prime minister could be an effective wake-up call for these shirkers who have no choice but to toe the line.

For opposition MPs, the respective leaders of their parties could also tick off their absent Yang Berhormat. Or they could choose to let them off the hook since they are not in the government.

Speaker can crack whip

The Dewan Rakyat speaker could also crack the whip by making it mandatory for all MPs to turn up when Parliament is in business.

If some MPs “disappear” for no good reason, then the speaker can flash their names on a large screen inside and outside the hall under the heading “Ponteng MPs”.

Or better still, the speaker can order the sergeants-at-arms to place large placards on the empty seats displaying in bold, capital letters the word “PONTENG!” He could even use his power to suspend the culprits for a long or short spell, or even cut their fabulous allowances.

When the guilty party comes in the next day, the speaker could order him or her to stand up and give him or her a severe dressing down.

Dewan Rakyat speaker Johari Abdul

As a last resort, MPs who absent themselves from parliamentary sitting for three days will be expelled and their parliamentary seat declared vacant.

Since proceedings are telecast live, the whole country would witness the shameful antics of the MPs who could be blacklisted in the next general election.

MPs must take pride in their status as the representatives of the people. Parliament is where they take part in the cut and thrust of debate that would shape the life of the nation.

Since this is serious business which requires total dedication, all MPs not holding cabinet posts should relinquish their full-time jobs or businesses and survive solely on their allowances. This way, they can better concentrate on serving the people - and not leave their seats empty. - Mkini

PHLIP RODRIGUES is a retired journalist.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

How to deal with MPs who 'ponteng'