GEORGE TOWN, Oct 16 — State assemblymen need only attend one minute of the legislative assembly to fulfil the requirement of the House rules, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said at the assembly today.
He said the House rules stipulated that only if an assemblyman failed to attend the legislative assembly for a period of more than six months without applying for leave, the seat will be vacated by the legislative assembly.
“So it does not state that the assemblyman need to be here every day during the assembly sitting, so even if the assemblyman was to attend one minute of the sitting, he has already fulfilled the requirement of attendance,” he said after a furore raised by the state Opposition front over the absence of Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PKR — Pantai Jerejak) for most of this sitting.
Chow said an assemblyman need only apply for leave of absence from the Speaker if he was unable to attend the full sitting of the legislative assembly.
He said this House rule does not apply to Saifuddin as the latter had attended the first day of the House sitting on Monday.
Earlier, Zulkilfi Ibrahim (Bersatu — Sungai Acheh) had asked the Speaker if Saifuddin had applied for leave as he had been absent throughout the sitting from Tuesday onwards.
Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang replied that Saifuddin had not applied for a leave of absence and that he was not sure if Saifuddin will be present for the remainder of the session later today.
Dr Afif Bahardin (Bersatu — Seberang Jaya) had read out the House rules that stated that an assemblyman who could not attend the legislative assembly must apply for a leave of absence.
“The state had planned to vacate our seats through a motion when we are here everyday to join in the debate but this assemblyman has a seat and yet he disrespected the House by not being here,” he said.
He said he was showing his concern for Saifuddin and wanted to know what had happened to the assemblyman and whether he was quarantined at home.
This sparked several responses from the backbenchers, Gooi Zi Sen (DAP — Pengkalan Kota), Lee Chun Kit (DAP — Pulau Tikus) and M.Satees (DAP — Bagan Dalam), who accused the Opposition assemblymen of having bad intentions in raising this.
This led to backbenchers and the Opposition shouting at each other with one side demanding the Speaker take action against the absent Saifuddin while another demanding action against the Opposition for speaking with bad intentions to smear Saifuddin.
Even state excos got involved with Jagdeep Singh Deo (DAP — Datuk Keramat) standing up to tell Dr Afif to sit down and let him continue with his winding up speech.
“You are wasting everyone’s time, sit down now, I need to start my winding up speech now,” he told Dr Afif.
Law finally ordered everyone to sit down to allow Chow to propose a motion to extend the legislative assembly time to 6.30pm today.
After proposing the motion, Chow read out the House rules to state that Saifuddin had attended the first day of legislative assembly, therefore he had fulfilled the required attendance.
Zulkifli then stressed that he had raised this as he pitied Saifuddin’s constituents since their assemblyman was not around to raise their issues or defend them.
“We are only here twice a year, he was not involved in the debate session for so many days, it must be so nice to makan gaji buta like this,” he said.
Law finally put his foot down and told everyone to sit down and let Jagdeep start his speech.