Column - Longer sessions in Parliament, please

KLUANG MP Liew Chin Tong has proposed that Parliament sits for a minimum of 80 days in a year. It is a brilliant suggestion but it doesn't go far enough.

In this current parliamentary meeting, which started on March 6, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman said only four legal bills are scheduled for debate. You have to wonder just how many bills are backlogged for amendments.

I'll give you an example, the Automated Enforcement System (AES) on the roads and all the tickets issued are still in limbo pending an amendment to our traffic laws and enforcement laws for seven years now, at least.

Meanwhile, how long will we have to wait for the sex offenders registration list to be put forth in Parliament?

Thus, I would suggest longer sessions in Parliament. After all, there is a reason our members of Parliament are called lawmakers – their job descriptions clearly state that they are the people's representatives on a federal level in making laws, among other things.

As such, I would suggest double what Chin Tong has proposed – 165 days a session, with sittings on Fridays as well. If once upon a time the logic was to allow MPs enough time to travel back to their hometowns and constituencies, it no longer applies now.

A flight to Kuala Terengganu takes 45 minutes and with the Electric Train Service it's five and a half hours to Padang Besar from Kuala Lumpur. This idea of taking a long time to travel no longer applies.

Thus, it would mean Parliament would be in session three times a year, a total of 33 weeks out of 52, with a six-week break in between meetings.

Why aim for a measly 80 when we can do better. And in case there are those using the need to meet their constituents in person, MPs have six weeks in between meetings to conduct their constituency clinics and to go around and give speeches on how our tax ringgit is being spent.

Are we saying that MPs don't have their own teams to assist them in their offices at the constituency?

Plus, if this proposal gets its way in Parliament, it would also mean that we can belay Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim's thoughts of cutting the salaries of MPs by half.

Not that I mind their salaries being cut, but my first thought would be to remove their allowances for petrol and driver. If they want a driver, they can take Uber and Grab like everyone else or pay for it on their own salaries.

More importantly, there is a need to explain to Malaysians what their elected representatives are supposed to be doing.

I hate to burst your bubble, Malaysians, but MPs are not showpieces who have to be in the constituency to take selfies with you or barrage you with fiery speeches, while a donation box is passed around.

Your MP is supposed to live up to his name and sit down in Parliament, voicing whatever thoughts you have on the matter which was forwarded to him via letter, email, WhatsApp or posted on his Facebook page and Twitter, regarding matters of national importance.

If it's a local matter such as a clogged drain or a dirty public toilet, it isn't his job, it lies with the state assembly members. Unless, of course, they are MPs from constituencies in Kuala Lumpur, but even then it falls under City Hall.

Many Malaysians expect their MPs to hold their hands and be at their beck and call for special occasions and even functions; when in fact, you actually voted for them to stay in Kuala Lumpur and talk on your behalf along with 221 other such people.

At the same time, lawmakers should also excuse themselves from the corporate world during their tenure. This has been raised by concerned citizens and they should push forward with it.

The same should apply to those appointed to boards of government-linked companies (GLCs) and all forms of business to avoid conflicts of interest.

If lawmakers want to be lawmakers, then I believe they should bear the brunt like any civil servant or employee. And trust me, nobody in either sector gets to come into their office for 80 days and then gallivant across the country or work from home for the rest of the year.

The writer is a public relations practitioner. Comments: