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Shame on MPs who ‘ponteng’!

Missing MPs in Parliament - FILE PHOTO: THE STAR

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By Phlip Rodrigues

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 criticise the government for its policy failures, broken promises and mismanagement.

It is not an easy task, considering you also have to formulate laws that could have far-reaching consequences for the nation.

The moment you become an MP, you can hardly rest. 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 go as they please. They do not see the need to attend daily whenever Parliament is in session. They think their absence will go unnoticed.

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

If we 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 decline. If we have to beg them to play their role, it means they are not living up to their role as a people’s representative.

How then do you deal with MPs who play truant even though they are paid handsomely to attend sittings in Parliament? 

For starters, the prime minister could directly call those those ponteng (truant) MPs on the government side who fail to show up in Parliament. He could call them from his Parliament office itself or from his home before the start of proceedings.

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The prime minister can yell at them down the line: “YB, bangun! Pemalas! Jangan you ponteng hari ini. Tak malu! Lebih baik you resign!” (Wake up! Sloth! Don’t play truant today. Shameless! [It’d be] better [if] you resign!”)

Or gently remind them to observe the most basic duty: “Hello, YB. Selamat pagi. Jangan lupa datang ke-Dewan Rakyat. Jumpa lagi.” (Hello, good morning. Don’t forget to turn up in Parliament today. See you then.”)

A call from the prime minister could be an effective wake-up call for these shirkers, who would most certainly jump up from their beds or from wherever they are ‘hiding’ when it is the big boss himself on the line.

For opposition MPs, their respective party leaders could also tick off their absentee MPs. Or they could let them off the hook, as they are not in government – but this would only tarnish their standing in society.

The House of Representatives speaker could also crack his whip by making it mandatory for all MPs, whether in government or opposition, to turn up when Parliament is in business.

If some MPs ‘disappear’ for no good reason, then the speaker can flash their names on large screens 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.

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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.

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

As proceedings are telecast live, the whole country would then witness the shameful antics of the MPs, who could end up being blacklisted in the next general election.

The media could also chip in by giving front-page treatment to all these shirkers. Publish their names with mugshots of them to boot, with banner headlines screaming, “Shame on you!”

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

If they are absent, they cannot give their views, which means the public’s trust in them was misplaced. 

Their work as MPs is serious business that requires total dedication. 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.

Phlip Rodrigues is a retired journalist.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Gursharan Singh
Gursharan Singh
5 Jul 2024 11.32am

Shame may not be in the nature of most politicians worldwide as may be evidenced by the many who may be under investigtion or even convicted but still walk around with pride. Unfortunately this absence of shame virus may also have infected some in positions of power in other sectors including civil service elites professionals religiouns charities etc as may be evidenced by the many under investigations by enforcement agencies or charged or free on bail for years with little possibility of cases seeing closure.
Bless all

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