SLOW and uneventful.
But that was because most Umno MPs were away at the party's General Assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).
Umno MPs make up more than half the majority in Parliament.
Not only were the Umno backbenchers not around to put forth their questions, some frontbenchers, too, were absent to reply to questions relating to their ministries.
There were occasions when the parliamentary secretary of a ministry had to read out answers to questions regarding another ministry.
For example, Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim answered for the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and also the Human Resources Ministry.
Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek answered on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Department.
However, the irony was that many of those absent were non-Umno members, mainly from Sabah and Sarawak.
Attempts to contact these MPs later failed.
A Selangor MP said backbenchers from other Barisan Nasional component parties had been told earlier to attend parliamentary sittings for the week.
“They should be here. We have all been told to come and fill the quorum because of the Umno general assembly,” he said.
“It’s not fair to put the blame on Umno MPs.”
Another MP said there should be no problem had MPs from the other Barisan parties shown up.
“There are still MPs from other parties. But some did not turn up, except for a few familiar faces,” he said.
Even Deputy Speaker Datuk Lim Si Cheng conceded that the attendance for the week was not impressive.
“Despite the poor turnout, the debates went on smoothly, as usual,” he said.
The poor attendance also provided DAP an opportunity to make a quorum call on the last day of the sitting this week.
This resulted in an early adjournment of the proceedings, when MPs failed to meet the quorum of 26.
But Backbenchers Club committee member Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN – Ayer Hitam) claimed that it was the opposition’s intention to “sabotage” proceedings.
“Chong Eng (DAP – Bukit Mertajam) was the one who called for the quorum but she left the House after that,” he said.
“Barisan MPs were in the House but three DAP MPs deliberately stood outside when the bell (to call for MPs to fill the quorum in the House) rang.”
The turnout was so poor on Wednesday that 13 questions had to be left out during question time.
This was because most Umno MPs had gone to the PWTC to listen to the opening speech of their president, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
However, nine of the MPs absent were non-Umno members, including six from Sabah and Sarawak.
The 90-minute time allocated for question time is normally insufficient for the House to finish replying to the 24 questions in the Order Paper.
But at one point, Datuk Dr Wan Azmi Wan Ariffin (BN-Sik) managed to ask his question, the 23rd on the list.
Since there were still a few minutes left before question time ended at 11.30am, the MPs agreed with Lim for the proceedings to go back to unanswered questions earlier.
When contacted, Lim said the Standing Orders stated that the proceedings should continue with questions that were left out earlier but added that it was unusual for such situations to occur.
“If I am not mistaken, it has only happened twice or thrice since 2000,” said Lim.
He said not many MPs, especially the new ones, knew about the rule.
On Wednesday, everyone was surprised when question time went through a second round.
Even Housing and Local Government Ministry parliamentary secretary Dr S. Subramaniam was not prepared to answer Question One for his ministry, which had earlier been skipped.
He was enjoying his thosai in the coffee house when his name was called.
The House is expected to return to its vibrant mood when it sits again tomorrow.