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Sunday, April 20, 2008

MPs must submit questions 21 days before Parliament meets

The Star

Sunday April 20, 2008


KUALA LUMPUR: Each MP should submit 10 oral questions and five written questions for Dewan Rakyat’s Question Time 21 days before the house begins each meeting.

Ipoh Timor MP Lim Kit Siang said for the coming meeting, the deadline for MPs to submit questions was 5pm on April 8.

The inaugural meeting for the new incoming Parliament begins on April 28 and ends on May 27.

The next meeting when the MPs will get another chance at asking questions begins on June 23.

The questions, whereby MPs can ask the Government to explain their policies, decisions and actions, can either be faxed or e-mailed to the secretary of the Dewan Rakyat.

A list of questions, normally about 20 to 30 oral questions will be printed on the Order Paper for each sitting.

In the past, Question Time would occupy the first hour and a half of each sitting although there have been suggestions that more time should be allotted for it.

On a normal day, about eight questions will be answered. Oral questions that are not answered will be replied to in writing the following day.

MPs would get to ask the questions listed on the Order Paper, known as the “original question” and two to three supplementary questions are allowed.

The right to ask the first supplementary question will go to the MP who asked the original question.

The MP who asks the question must be present in the house before his question is answered.

If not, his question will be skipped.

The questions would be answered by the relevant minister, deputy minister or parliamentary secretary – known as the “Frontbenchers” – although there will not be any parliamentary secretaries for this term as none has been appointed.

MPs would often race against each other and stand up to try to catch the Speaker’s attention once the answer is given so that he will be allowed to ask a supplementary question.

Question Time is often lively as MPs trade barbs with the frontbencher when they are not satisfied with the answer.

Often, when it is an Opposition MP asking the question, Barisan Nasional MPs will come to the “aid” of the frontbenchers by shouting at him and this will provoke other Opposition MPs to respond.

The procedure for Question Time in the Dewan Negara is similar except that the questions must be submitted to the secretary 14 days earlier.


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