A shouting match broke out at the Penang assembly this morning after an opposition member pointed out that a PKR backbencher did not attend assembly sittings for the past four days.
Zulkifli Ibrahim (PPBM-Sungai Acheh) was first to raise the issue, asking the speaker on the whereabouts of Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PKR-Pantai Jerejak), who he said had been absent from the assembly since Tuesday.
This led to Dr Afif Bahardin (PPBM-Seberang Jaya) saying his no-show was an “insult” to the House.
“There are people who want to move a motion to vacate the seats (of those who had hopped parties), but those with (government) seats are absent for a long time. It is clearly an insult to this assembly. Is he being quarantined (for Covid-19)? Did he tell the assembly that he is going on leave?” he asked.
Speaker Law Choo Kiang said Saifuddin did not notify anyone about his absence from the assembly but felt he (Saifuddin) could be outside the chambers and might return later. Afif reiterated that Saifuddin was nowhere to be seen since Tuesday.
Saifuddin is PKR’s secretary-general and Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP.
“You are only asked to be at the assembly twice a year, but you don’t attend. Makan gaji buta (get paid without doing much),” Afif said, angering backbenchers, who demanded he retract his statement.
Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy (DAP-Perai) interjected, saying the sudden grouse about Saifuddin’s disappearance was an expression of Perikatan Nasional’s jitters over losing power at the federal level, which was met with scorn from the other side.
Law, in an attempt to calm down both sides, said assemblymen were not obliged to be in the House all the time but would have to give notice to the assembly clerk, especially if they were going away for a long time.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Padang Kota) said assemblymen need not apply for a leave of absence as raised by Afif, as long as they attended the assembly once.
He said if an assemblyman was absent for six months, they could lose their seat, as per provisions under the State Constitution. “As long as he is here, even for a minute, that’s enough.”
An irate Jagdeep Singh Deo (DAP-Dato Keramat) who was waiting for his turn to deliver his winding-up keynote shouted at the opposition to “not waste my time” and to be quiet.
Law then warned that those who continued to bicker would be ejected from the House.
Meanwhile, Saifuddin today said he missed four days of the Penang assembly as he had to attend a medical check-up at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
He told news portal FMT today that he had informed the chief minister before taking leave for an urgent medical check-up.
“I was there on the first day of the tabling of the 2021 state budget (on Monday). I told the chief minister that I would be going to KL in the evening that day.
“I had an appointment with Pantai Hospital for a health check-up and, at the same time, a Covid-19 test. I tested negative, thank God.
“I thank Afif and Zulkifli for raising this issue, which I take with an open heart,” Saifuddin said.