Ministers’ Question Time begins on Oct 18

pandikar

KUALA LUMPUR: Ministers’ Question Time (MQT) will be implemented from Oct 18, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia announced today.

However, some Opposition lawmakers are calling for “Prime Minister’s Question Time”.

Pandikar, while opening a briefing session at Parliament for MPs today, said the MQT would be held for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday, during the Dewan Rakyat sessions.

“The 30-minute sessions will be held at 10am before the oral question sessions are conducted.”

During the MQT, there will be a countdown timer so that each question will not be prolonged.

It will start with the initial question, for which a minute is given. The minister will have three minutes to respond.

Lawmakers will be given 30 seconds for an additional question, with the minister given 2.5 minutes to respond.

Pandikar Amin said the system had been implemented successfully in Australia.

“Those who go beyond the stipulated time there are usually told: ‘Sir you are being rude. Please follow your time.’

“I hope our MPs follow the time given for each question.”

During the almost two-hour briefing, video clips were shown to lawmakers on the MQT, which is known as the Prime Minister’s Question Time in other Commonwealth countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, and Ministers’ Question Time in Australia.

Pandikar Amin said the questions could be posed by lawmakers one day before the MQT.

MQT is different from the normal oral session which has no time limit for questions. MPs also have to submit questions 10 days in advance.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad suggested an additional day be set aside for MPs to shoot questions to the prime minister.

“We hardly have any chance to ask him questions,” he told Pandikar.

Khalid said Malaysia should follow the Westminster system where the lawmakers are given time to question the prime minister directly.

“For instance today, all the lawmakers are here but the prime minister is absent.”

Pandikar Amin replied: “Even if the prime minister replies to your questions, you may still be disappointed. We have just started our parliamentary reforms… Let’s work on them.”

At the Dewan’s lobby, Seremban MP Anthony Loke said he and the other lawmakers had asked for the Prime Minister’s Question Time to be implemented but “they gave us Ministers’ Question Time as a compromise”.

Batu MP Tian Chua urged all lawmakers to use the opportunity to ask the ministers questions. “We will not know how this will turn out unless it is put into practice.”

Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin told FMT that Malaysia is a developing country and there were a lot of issues to be discussed.

“The relevant ministers are the best people to respond to various issues.”

At present, the question-and-answer session is held from Monday to Thursday, from 10am to 11.30am, followed by debates during the Dewan sitting, held three times a year.

On a related matter, Pandikar Amin said the Parliamentary Services Act 1963 (PSA), repealed in 1992, was being reviewed.

He said the review, which falls under the second phase of the parliamentary reform initiative, will empower the legislature and would require a two-thirds majority before changes can be made to the Constitution.

The first phase involved introducing MQT, organising a special chamber for lawmakers to discuss issues “in depth” and shortening the submission time for oral questions from 14 days to 10 days.

Pandikar Amin believed the act would empower the legislative branch as there was a perception that there was interference from executive powers.

Tags: Minister’s question time, Pandikar Amin Mulia, Dewan Rakyat, parliamentary reforms