It’s Speaker’s job to tick off dodgy ministers

shad-faruqi

PETALING JAYA: It’s the responsibility of the Speaker to ensure that ministers don’t dodge questions in Parliament, says constitutional law expert Shad Saleem Faruqi.

Commenting on a complaint against Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said, Faruqi said the Speaker must act as a referee to ensure the effectiveness of Question Time.

“This is one of the reasons the impartiality of the Speaker is so important,” he told FMT.

“The Speaker has to be able to reprimand the minister if an answer is inadequate.”

He also noted that MPs could ask supplementary questions if a minister’s reply was inadequate, adding that some MPs would use this provision to trap ministers by asking questions the latter was unprepared for.

Faruqi was referring to remarks made by Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen regarding Azalina’s reply on Wednesday to his question about the cost of the Prime Minister’s official and unofficial air travels throughout last year.

Azalina’s response, made in a written reply, was that the “Airbus Corporate Jetliner 319 was used 61 times in 2015 for official use by Prime Minister Najib Razak.” She said the government paid for fuel, airport charges, cabin crew and catering. However, no amount was provided.

This prompted Wong to take to Facebook to criticise Azalina for her “stupid” answer.

Wong told FMT he would do the math himself and issue a statement next week on the cost of Najib’s travels.

Faruqi, an emeritus professor of law who teaches at Universiti Teknologi MARA, said it was common throughout the democratic world for ministers to dodge hard questions.

“In fact, in England, the mother of parliamentary democracy, they jokingly say that Question Time is a ritual exercise in evasion,” he said.