Only 19 MPs show up for parliament's weekly session!
A NO-SHOW by more than half of Bahrain's MPs yesterday meant parliament's weekly session had to be cancelled.
Only 19 of the country's 40 MPs showed up, despite a mounting workload that must be cleared before their four-year term ends in a matter of weeks.
It is just the latest example of chronic absenteeism that has hindered parliamentary work, particularly since the start of the year.
In March parliament chairman Ahmed Al Mulla threatened to deduct a full day's pay from MPs for every meeting they failed to complete.
He described MPs' failure to attend yesterday's session as "intolerable" and pledged to impose financial penalties.
"Deductions will be made according to penalties in the 2002 Parliament Bylaws Law, which governs MPs' conduct, behaviour, attendance and work," said Mr Al Mulla.
"This is intolerable and will be met with tough action.
"There is not enough time to waste with urgent legislation on the table and more coming from the government in the next few days."
Parliament's four-year term is due to end on June 14, but is likely to be extended with an estimated 20 urgent bills anticipated from the government.
However, only seven MPs were in their seats on time for the start of yesterday's session at 9.30am.
There should be at least 21 MPs for parliament to meet, but after two 30-minute recesses there were still not enough to start.
It meant the entire schedule slated for discussion yesterday had to be postponed until next week.
MPs collect a total monthly salary of BD4,750, including allowances, while its two vice-chairmen pocket BD5,000 and its chairman picks up BD5,400.
However, repeated absenteeism has forced 12 of parliament's 14 sessions since the start of the year to end early because not enough MPs were present - including all four weekly meetings in March.
Mr Al Mulla's threat to impose financial sanctions led to an immediate improvement in punctuality and attendance, until yesterday.
However, parliament secretary general Abdulla Al Dossary said it would be difficult to deduct MPs' salaries - since the session did not officially commence.
"We can deduct MPs' pay for missing sessions that take place without an excuse, but not if the session is never held," he said.
"However, if the chairman believes pay cuts should be made we will find a proper legal way."
Among those absent was parliament first vice-chairman Ali Al Aradi, who sent a written apology in advance stating he had an urgent official appointment.
"I informed Mr Al Mulla in writing a few days ago that I was preoccupied with an urgent appointment involving my constituency and that I would show up later," he said.
"But later never happened, as my colleagues didn't show up at all.
"My written letter was approved, so I am not one of those MPs simply sleeping during the day, deciding not to show up or arriving two or three hours after the session was cancelled."
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