MPs absent after lunch because of meeting, not eating.
The Dewan Rakyat was forced to halt proceedings temporarily because of a lack of quorum.
Speaker Datuk Mohamad Arrif Md Yusof ordered the House to stand down after Noor Azmi Ghazali (Independent-Bagan Serai) stood up to state that the sitting may have to be postponed as there were not enough MPs.
“There are no ministers or deputy ministers in the House, so can we proceed as there is a lack of quorum?” he said when the House resumed at 2.30pm on Tuesday (July 24) after the lunch break.
Mohamad Ariff took note of Noor Azmi’s observation and stopped proceedings.
He ordered the Dewan Rakyat bell to be rung for two minutes to allow lawmakers to enter the hall.
Proceedings resumed after Mohamad Ariff announced there were 35 lawmakers present in the hall.
Under Standing Order 13, there must be at least 26 MPs in the 222-seat Dewan to allow proceedings to be held.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed dissatisfaction over the attendance of his Cabinet members and their deputies in Parliament, but said they have other ministerial duties to attend to as well.
Though he said the members of the Cabinet have paperwork to attend to, he said they should improve their attendance or have a good excuse for not attending Dewan Rakyat sessions.
Last week, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin also questioned the number of empty seats during the motion of thanks on the Royal Address.
“Front beach is empty. Not a single Cabinet minister in the Dewan Rakyat to listen to the Opposition leader’s speech,” he tweeted.
Members of Parliament are given a 1.5-hour lunch break during Dewan Rakyat sittings.
A Pakatan Harapan lawmaker later clarified that government backbenchers were in a meeting, which resulted in the Dewan Rakyat sitting being delayed due to a lack of quorum in the afternoon.
“We weren’t having lunch,” Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham told Malaysiakini.
“We worked through the lunch break, in a meeting at (one of the committee rooms) to discuss various matters.
“When the bell rang, we rushed to the hall from our meeting, which actually was still not finished,” he added.
Ngeh also explained that lawmakers are sometimes not present in the Dewan Rakyat during proceedings due to other engagements.
He said parliamentarians cannot afford to “while away their time” in the House when it is not their turn to participate in the debate.
“Just because we are not in the hall doesn’t mean we are not in the Parliament. We might be meeting with officers or members of the public who are seeking our help.
“We need to maximise our time. We cannot just sit in the hall all day,” he was quoted as saying.
The DAP MP said lawmakers might also be required to rush back to their constituencies to deal with their constituents’ issues.