When MPs miss parliamentary sittings

Mustafa K. Anuar

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has found it necessary to explain his position after it was revealed that he was frequently absent from parliamentary proceedings. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 14, 2022.

Members of parliament, who are elected by their respective constituents in a general election, have a vital role in making laws as well as performing other functions that would supposedly benefit ordinary Malaysians and the country as a whole.  

Given the important role of parliamentarians, absenteeism is generally frowned upon as it is seen as a dereliction of duty. 

This explains why PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang found it necessary to explain his position after it was revealed that he was one of the lawmakers who was frequently absent from parliamentary proceedings. 

The Dewan Rakyat is not like a school where regular and full attendance is required, quipped Hadi in defence of his abysmal appearance of 21 days out of the 71 days of the House’s five sessions from July 2021 till March 2022, as reported by Malaysiakini recently. 

He said that as a minister, he had to absent himself at times from parliament to attend to other obligations, adding that ministers would appear to reply to questions, and then leave the House to perform duties elsewhere.  

Hadi was appointed by the Perikatan Nasional government in 2020 as a special envoy to West Asia, which is a position with the same status as a cabinet minister. 

He seemed to imply that he was busy making a lot of trips to the West Asian region to engage with the leaders there, the outcome of which, however, has yet to be made public and eagerly discussed in parliament.  

For instance, did he manage to bring in a lot of Arab investments to help revive our sluggish economy after the pandemic? 

Besides, shouldn’t there be a healthy balance between official work and parliamentary obligations? 

Lawmakers are considered to be in attendance even if they only attend part of the sitting and are considered absent if they do not appear at all.  

According to a Malaysiakini report, other MPs who had poor attendance were Warisan president Mohd Shafie Apdal, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, and Pejuang’s chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad. 

MPs with good attendance include DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke and Upko president Wilfred Madius Tangau – both registering full attendance, while Muda president Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman clocked in for 70 days. Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim attended for 66 days. 

The former Marang MP’s absenteeism gained greater public attention and concern after it was also made public by activist and graphic artist Fahmi Reza when he reviewed a list of absentee lawmakers in his popular “Kelas Demokrasi” that was presented on TikTok for the benefit of young and first-time voters such as students. 

Hadi’s response further incurred the wrath of social media users when he argued that he was not active in parliamentary debates because he wanted to provide opportunities for younger MPs, particularly from PAS, to participate. 

Social media users suggested that Hadi completely throw in the towel for the benefit of other MPs, and stop wasting taxpayers’ money that he received as a lawmaker. The proposal may be worth mulling over. 

Absenteeism is certainly a serious neglect of the interests and concerns of the electorate. – November 14, 2022.  

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