PKR chief whip Johari Abdul said he was aware that BN would try to ambush the vote on the Supply Bill 2020 for the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry last night.

“This is exactly what we did to BN last time, remember? We always ambushed them also, so they did the same number on us now. But this time around we were alert to what’s going on.

“When I saw some unfamiliar faces around, BN MPs who never stayed back, I knew something was going on, so I was quite ready on that. But, of course, if you ask me if the numbers should be bigger, I say yes,” Johari (above) told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.

Last night, the Supply Bill 2020 for the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry was only narrowly passed after opposition lawmakers called for a bloc vote twice.

The first vote count saw 32 MPs in support of the bill with 28 opposition lawmakers voting against it. The second and final bloc vote was 45-28 in favour of the bill.

Johari explained that fatigue was one of the reasons for the unsatisfactory attendance by lawmakers at Parliament.

“Generally, you see in this budget session, we go back late, usually around 10 to 10.30pm, so by the time you get home it is midnight. After you shower, it is 1am and then you say ‘hi’ to your wife, it is 1.30am.

“So, when you wake up, sometimes you are a bit late for the morning session, so it is fatigue. I think it is not that productive as when you come back in the morning, you are also groggy. Sometimes that is why,” Johari said.

He said he intends to discuss the issue with the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof.

“Probably we have to discuss with the speaker to see how parliamentarians can get some quality time,” he said.

Another reason for unsatisfactory attendance, he said, was because lawmakers have a lot of programmes to attend at the end of the year.

“Of course we have duty rosters. Some follow, some unavoidably cannot follow, so that is the reason. But anyhow, we will always make sure that the quorum is okay,” he said.

On the other hand, Ayer Hitam MP Wee Ka Siong said it was the opposition’s job to teach the government a lesson by ambushing them over their poor late-night attendance.

“Out of 127 MPs from the government, why can’t you get more than 40 or 60 at any one time if the opposition wants to ambush you?

 I mean it is our job to teach them a lesson. This is your own budget, your people don’t come,” Wee, who is also the MCA president, said.

He also dismissed fatigue as a “nonsense” and “rubbish” excuse.

“Don’t find excuses. For a simple reason, we experienced this. Don’t tell me this is your first encounter. Last year in the same Dewan, we passed the Budget 2019.

“So there is no excuse for them to say, ‘Oh, they are new and they do not know the fatigue’ or whatever,” Wee said.

It is the government’s duty, he said, to make sure that they have enough MPs in the Dewan at any one time to endorse the budget.

The government’s narrow win last night was their lesson for not taking Parliament seriously. “I hope they learned a lesson,” he added.

Media ‘misreported’

Meanwhile, de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong (below) said the issue of lack of quorum last night did not actually arise as the number of lawmakers in the House when the first vote was taken already surpassed the required number of 26 MPs.

He urged the media not to misreport the matter.

“During the committee stage (of debate), this shouldn’t be made an issue… When the first vote was announced, there were 32 government and 28 opposition MPs, so the issue of quorum did not arise… (it was) misreporting by the media.

“I hope the media do not confuse the rakyat on the issue of the quorum,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said.

Speaking at the National Stakeholders Consultation on the Right to Information Legislation programme in Putrajaya today, Liew said the opposition was “slapping its own face” as they, too, had low attendance.

“The opposition should be more matured,” he said.

This was not the first the issue of poor attendance brought up in the august House. Last week, the start of the Dewan Rakyat session was delayed after only 24 MPs were present when the opening bell rang.

In October, the evening session was also briefly suspended due to lack of quorum. Prior to that, attendance of lawmakers had also been criticised during the debates on Budget 2020.