It's Minister"s responsibility to answer questions raised in Parliament
Last evening I raised 3 main issues of public importance when taking part in the parliamentary debate on the financial estimates for the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water.
1) The allocation of RM 2 million for the Ministry to educate the public on the setting up of nuclear plants.
I asked the Ministry to reconsider the proposed building of nuclear plants in Malaysia in view of the dangers of nuclear plants. The most recent disasters in Japan and elsewhere have raised concern on the reliance of nuclear energy as a source of energy.
In fact many western countries are now re looking at nuclear energy and moving to safer energies like solar energy. Under the Economic Transformation Programme, the Government has announced setting aside RM21.3 billion as mentioned in ETP report for the building of 2 nuclear energy plants. With all the disasters happening around the globe on nuclear plant, this idea should cease immediately.
2) The policy on renewal energy
How effective has the Government been on its dependence on renewal energy. Is the Ministry assisting and pushing the production of renewal energy? What type of assistance both financial or others in the furtherance of solar, wind and biomas renewal energy?
Can we safely say that in a year or two Malaysia's renewal energy will be contributing say 10 % of local energy need?
Last year when the Renewal Energy Act was passed, the Minister said feed in tariff system would be a reality by 2011. 2011 is already at its tail end and when will this system become a reality?
3) Water supply financial assistance to Perak.
I asked what amount of water is lost due to leaking pipes as over 30 % is usually lost due to old pipes or by theft of water.
What assistance the Federal Government is giving to Perak in this matter? How many areas and in which areas have been identified of having the need to have the old pipes repaired or replaced?
The Minister concerned YB Peter Chin after answering some matters raised, informed the Speaker that due to constrain of time , all other issues including the above issues raised will be replied in writing.
I immediately stood up and asked the Speaker for clarification.
I said that as the House sitting had been extended to 10.30 pm form 5.30pm; there was ample time to the Minister to respond to the matters raised by me and others.
The Speaker Ronald Kindee replied that it was the prerogative of the Minister to stop replying or refuse to reply. He further said that the standing orders of the House have no provision to force a Minister to reply orally.
I said Malaysian Parliament may not have provision to compel a Minister to reply to matters raised in a debate but we have the Commonwealth conventions which so require Ministers to reply. To this, the Speaker disagreed and let the Minister off the hook.
Ministers must take their job seriously. When answers are given orally it gives an avenue for us to cross examine on the replies and or to challenge them.
With written reply all this cannot be done. MPs will be handicapped.
It is useless to raise matters in Parliament when Ministers can choose to reply by way of writing as the answers will be done normally by the staff. Thus the effective check on the Minister will be lost.
Barisan MPs took exception to my argument that the Minister is paid to do his job and that he should not treat Parliament as a rubber stamp and answer matters he likes and gives written replies to other issues.
I repeatedly said the Minister "makan gaji buta"!!
An effective Minister who takes his job seriously must be prepared to answer all issues raised by MPs.