KUALA LUMPUR: A ruckus broke out in Parliament when a deputy minister declined to answer a question on behalf of another ministry.
The incident happened when Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN- Bagan Datoh) stood up to ask the Home Ministry a supplementary question over the cancellation of a proposed project to upgrade police stations.
"Since the question is directed to the Home Ministry, it is better that the Home Minister answers the question," Economic Affairs deputy minister Senator Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said in response to Dr Ahmad Zahid's inquiry during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday (Oct 25).
Ayer Hitam MP Dr Wee Ka Siong stood up to remind Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon that the absence of the relevant ministers or deputies to answer questions would set a bad precedent.
"We know that there are parliamentary reforms. But it is a bad example and should not happen.
"I am aware that the Home Minister needs rest to recover but his deputy should be around to answer," Dr Wee said, referring to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who had surgery in July to remove a tumour in his pancreas.
Dr Wee added that Mohd Rashid should make a ruling on ministerial answers to questions in Parliament.
Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said that the "marks" of absence ministers should be further deducted.
"The Prime Minister recently said that some ministers scored marks between 40 and 45% on their performance.
"Maybe their marks should be reviewed further and reduced," he said to table thumps of approval from Barisan Nasional Opposition MPs.
Pang Hok Liong (PH-Labis) stood up to defend Dr Md Radzi saying that Standing Order 24 allowed questions to be answered on behalf of another ministry.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye suggested that Mohd Rashid look into the Standing Order before making a ruling.
Later at Parliament lobby, Dr Wee expressed disappointment over the "disappearance" of the Deputy Home Minister during Question Time.
"Ministers cannot give the excuse that they are busy and have other commitments outside.
No matter how busy the Minister is, at least the Deputy Minister should be in the Dewan," he said.
Speaking to reporters later at the lobby, Mohd Rashid said that other Cabinet ministers may answer a question raised if the Minister holding the relevant portfolio is not present.
“Other ministers may answer, however the Speaker must be informed,” he added.
He urged ministers and their deputies to arrange their schedules so that at least one of them would be present to answer questions raised by lawmakers during Question Time.