PETALING JAYA: The development gap between rural and urban areas as well as problems faced by the poor topped the list of questions that Members of Parliament asked during the last Dewan Rakyat meeting.
The Star did an analysis of the Parliament’s Hansard and found that lawmakers managed to ask a total of 406 questions during the Parliament meeting that took place from Oct 7 to Dec 5.
Of the total, the most common topics, among others, were issues related to Sarawak and Sabah, the lack of rural infrastructure and development connectivity as well as housing concerns.
For Sabah and Sarawak MPs, most of their questions were on infrastructure needs such as repairs for dilapidated schools, electricity supply, connectivity and the upgrading of roads and bridges.
Political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said while infrastructure was important, such problems should have mostly been sorted out by now.
This is because Malaysia is already in 2020, the year the country originally aimed to become a developed nation, he said.
The Universiti Sains Malaysia social science lecturer noted that some of the main topics in the MPs’ questions were still focused on issues such as the shortage of infrastructure, a problem that usually affects less developed countries.
“My concern instead is very much on issues related to the people and their keenness to know where we are headed, ” he said.
Other major issues which should be getting more attention included the cost of living, employment and the widening gap between low and high-income earners, added Prof Sivamurugan.
For some MPs, questions were mainly focused on complaints about the lack of infrastructure rather than how to uplift the incomes and skills of Malaysians.
For instance, out of the 18 questions on rural issues, 11 questions were on basic needs such as water supply, road conditions, streetlights and dilapidated schools.
Only five questions addressed the need to improve the economic needs of the rural community via rural development programmes.
Sivamurugan said MPs should also ask more questions about how to promote national unity due to recent race and religious arguments.
“In the Hansard, only five questions were related to race and religion, and I feel this is insufficient in comparison to the rising conflict and issues of unity in the country, ” he said.
With Pakatan Harapan now in power for 20 months, Sivamurugan said the people were evaluating and demanding better performance from the government.
MPs, he said, needed to raise more issues that were important in Parliament as this would reflect on their commitment and credibility.
“The MPs should also look at the Hansard as a reference point for them to perform better in 2020, ” he said.
The analysis of the Hansard showed that Pakatan MPs asked the most number of questions in the recent meeting, with Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil leading the pack with nine questions.
This is followed by Beluran MP Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee and Segamat MP Datuk Seri Dr Edmund Santhara, who asked seven questions each.
Twenty-six questions asked by 21 MPs were related to their own constituencies, which were mainly on the upgrading of infrastructure and schools, improvements for tourism, cleanliness, youth and assistance for the rural community.
Foreign countries most asked about in the last meeting were China (five questions), United States (three), Japan (two), India (two) and Pakistan (two).
Questions about China were on palm oil exports to the country, the importance of non-militarisation and the effect of oil and gas exploration projects in the South China Sea.
MPs also asked about foreigners, including those from China who overstayed in Malaysia, and the spillover of the US-China rivalry.
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