IT looks like high absenteeism among MPs is set to be a yearly event in Parliament.
Despite Minister in the Prime Ministers Department Datuk Seri Nazri Azizs reminders to backbenchers, many MPs failed to show up, causing several consecutive questions to be skipped.
On Monday, so many MPs were absent, including ministry representatives, that 13 questions had to be skipped during question time.
There were no representatives from the Foreign and Defence ministries.
Finance Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya merely read out the reply from the Defence Ministry to Syed Hood Syed Edros (BN Parit Sulong).
When there was another question for that ministry, Natural Resources and Environment Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Sazmi Miah said written answers would be given.
When the question for the Foreign Ministry was called out, Youth and Sports Ministry parliamentary secretary S. Vigneswaran told the House that the answers would be given in a written reply.
At the end of question time, Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib reminded the MPs to be present if their questions were listed in the Order Paper.
Ramli reminded MPs again the next morning before question time began. But the absence of MPs has become routine in Parliament.
Exactly three weeks ago, many MPs also failed to be present during question time, causing six questions to be skipped.
Then, Ramli had threatened to record the names of the absentee MPs but it has clearly not motivated them to turn up.
This prompted a veteran political reporter to ask: The question that underlies all the unanswered queries is this: are these representatives taking Parliament seriously?
Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang had a point when he questioned the high absenteeism on Monday.
What is the point of Barisan winning such a big majority? Where are the BN MPs?
However, Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek quickly took a pot shot at Teresa Kok (DAP Seputeh) when she did not turn up on Thursday, forcing her question to be skipped.
Ahmad Shabery said he was ready to answer her question but she was not there. But a number of Barisan MPs who were present were also concerned.
Datuk Dr Wan Hashim Wan Teh (BN Gerik) expressed his disappointment on Tuesday that there was no one from the Foreign Ministry to answer his question.
I commend the Yang di-Pertua for reminding the MPs to show up.
But this should not have happened and I hope it will not happen again, he said before debating the Budget.
When met at the lobby, Nazri only smiled when asked to comment on the absenteeism.
But when a reporter jokingly suggested that issuing letters to the absent MPs was just like a football referee handing out yellow or red cards to players when there is a foul, Nazri nodded.
But so far, nobody has received a red card yet, he quipped.
Despite the poor attendance on the first day of the week, Parliament proceedings for the week went smoothly.
It was among the rare occasions when sessions did not have to be extended. The House managed to pass the Budget at the committee stage for five ministries as scheduled.
There are 23 more ministries to pass the Bill. The Dewan sits again tomorrow.