How effective was your MP in Parliament? Find out here

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 11 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: We all have a stake in tracking the performance of our elected representatives, including our Members of Parliament (MPs).

One of the various ways to measure whether they are doing a good job or not is to see how they perform in Parliament.

To do this, The Star analysed the Dewan Rakyat Hansard, the official record of Parliament proceedings.

To keep the analysis manageable, we narrowed the scope to the Dewan Rakyat's most recent meeting, which took place from Oct 7 to Dec 5.

We also excluded MPs' motions or Private Member's Bills listed under the Dewan Rakyat's Order Paper.

Instead, we focused on two things – how active each MP was during debates and the questions they managed to ask.

Since the analysis is based on data from a single parliament meeting, the findings are not an overall verdict on the MPs.

Rather, it offers a rough snapshot of their performance during the meeting in question.

Here's what we found:


In sync with the rakyat's worries

Our Yang Berhormats are never short of things to say - throughout the 36-day meeting, they uttered a total of 2.3 million words.

Combing through the mountain of words, we managed to identify 406 questions that MPs directed at the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers.

These comprise questions that the MPs had submitted earlier in writing ahead of the meeting, which they managed to personally ask during the daily sittings.

Questions that received a written reply due to a lack of time as well as spontaneous questions the MPs raised during the debates were not included.

We then divided the 406 questions by topic to find out what the most common ones were.

We found that the topics of the MPs questions generally do reflect some of the key concerns of Malaysians.

The top five topics for example, were on Sarawak (30 questions), rural infrastructure and connectivity shortages (18), Sabah (15), Housing (11) and problems faced by the bottom 40% (B40) households in the country.

The MP who spoke the most wasn't the one who asked the most questions

Other than questions, we also measured the number of times each MP spoke.

However, we excluded the Speaker, Deputy Speakers and frontbenchers (the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, ministers and their deputies).

Since the Speaker and Deputy Speakers manage the sittings, they need to speak a lot. As such, they were not counted.

Frontbenchers were similarly excluded since it is their job to reply to all questions raised by MPs, making them active speakers in the Dewan Rakyat by default.

Barisan Nasional's Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim emerged as the MP who spoke the most number of times.

He took to the microphone 2,753 times in the last meeting, giving the impression that he also asked the most questions.

However, this is not the case as Shahidan only managed to ask two questions.

In contrast, Pakatan Harapan's Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil, who only spoke 215 times, asked the most questions (nine).

We found that the MPs who spoke the most number of times were often the ones most embroiled in heated arguments or most active in interjecting during debates.

Others on the list of MPs who spoke the most were lightning rods – recipients of intense verbal attacks who returned fire in equal measure.

What did you call me?

Parliamentary sittings are meant to be grown-up affairs where MPs debate and formulate national policies in a level-headed manner.

Sometimes, the exact opposite happens.

On occasion, some of our MPs lose their cool and use not-very-nice words to describe their opponents.

The analysis of the Hansard reveals a number of unsavoury words used by some of the MPs to belittle their opponents.

We chose to analyse the use of one of the words that rarely fails to rile up the recipient - "bodoh" (stupid).

During the last meeting, the word "bodoh" was used nearly 140 times in the august House.

From this figure, "bodoh" was used appropriately – meaning there was good reason to say the word – only about a dozen times.

Examples include when an MP reminds the government how voters are not "bodoh", or when the Speaker or Deputy Speakers steps in to remind MPs that they must not use the word "bodoh".

At all other times, the word "bodoh" was used by the MPs as an insult directed at their opponents.
The Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders do not define specific words MPs cannot use, but it does forbid inappropriate language in general terms.

According to Standing Order 36 for example, MPs cannot use offensive language, sexist remarks, treasonable, seditious or other words likely to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities, among others.

Any member who goes against the rules can be deemed to be in contempt of the House and the member may be referred to the Committee of Privileges for the offence.

The Hansard shows Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Yusof along with his deputies Datuk Rashid Hasnon and Nga Kor Ming actively reminding MPs not to use unparliamentary language and ordering those who go foul of the rules to retract their offensive words.

As a comparison, many legislative bodies including Britain's House of Commons also ban the use of unparliamentary language.

According to the UK Parliament website, for example, the Speaker will direct an MP who has used unparliamentary language to withdraw it.

Refusal to withdraw a comment might lead to an MP being disciplined, including being suspended from the House.

"Words to which objection has been taken by the Speaker over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor," the website said.

In another example, Canada's Parliament censured an MP for using a four-letter "F" word, although the word isn't what you might think it is.

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Dewan Rakyat , Parliament , Hansard


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