Is this 12MP debate or reading class, ask MPs vexed by ‘meaningless answers’

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The government’s reliance on reading from a prepared script when wrapping up debates has left opposition MPs vexed.

This is after they found the answers provided after debating the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) to be “meaningless”.

Hannah Yeoh (Harapan-Segambut) questioned if Parliament was now a reading class.

“This is a reading class, right? All (the ministers and deputies) came here to read.

“If everyone just reads a script, anyone can be a minister. You need to answer MPs’ questions during the debate for it to be meaningful.

“This is the 12MP, not a reading class. This is to debate a five-year plan,” she told the Dewan Rakyat today.

Yeoh added that the government should not take additional questions as an attack or disturbance.

While she and others were venting their frustrations, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin was in the background powering through his scripted answer.

Tensions in the lower house began to build earlier when Women, Family, and Community Development Deputy Minister Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff was wrapping up her ministry’s section of the debate.

Yeoh had interjected to ask for the ministry’s timeline to introduce five bills – namely on sexual harassment, senior citizens, disabled people, gender equality, and social workers.

She had wanted to know which of the five bills would be tabled first and whether there would be any tangible results by year-end.

Siti Zailah responded by saying that the ministry takes any laws related to it seriously and would follow the necessary processes.

The deputy minister then said that Yeoh had not raised this question during her debate and she (Siti Zailah) had to move on to other subjects as there was a lot she had to answer.

Unsatisfied, Yeoh said her request for a timeline was not answered, to which Siti Zailah replied: “We will make an effort.”

Upon further prodding, Siti Zailah reiterated the government’s plan to table an anti-sexual harassment bill by year-end, and that the bill on senior citizens was being put together.

She added that Yeoh as a former deputy minister should be aware of such matters.

Later, while Siti Zailah said her ministry was trying to get more working mothers to return to the workforce, P Kasthuriraani (Harapan-Batu Kawan) interjected to ask for specifics.

Siti Zailah responded that she had limited time to give answers but there were also many “disturbances” preventing her from answering.

“If you keep disturbing me, how am I supposed to answer?” she said.

She added that any unanswered questions will get a written reply and that such matters could also be discussed outside the Dewan Rakyat.

She then continued to read from her script and when time ran out, Siti Zailah emphasised that unanswered questions would get a written reply.

Each ministry is given 30 minutes to answer a section of the 12MP debate.

This has created a rushed nature to the answers, with opposition MPs lamenting that supplementary questions during the debate often go without a response.

Parliamentarians have also complained numerous times that written answers are often slow, or if they do come, are a rehash of old answers. – Malaysiakini