Opposition MPs staged a walkout today in protest over the Dewan Rakyat speaker’s decision not to refer Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to Parliament’s Rights and Privileges Committee in connection with his remarks over the goods and services tax (GST) refunds.
“I find that the Bagan MP had no intention to mislead and hence it does not fall under Rule 36 (12) of the Standing Orders,” Speaker of the House Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff told Parliament.
The opposition filed a motion, brought by Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Bera-BN), on Monday to refer Lim to the Rights and Privileges Committee for misleading Parliament last year when he accused the former Barisan Nasional government of “robbing” GST refunds.
“The report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) showed that no money was robbed as alleged by Lim,” Ismail said yesterday.
“This means the Bagan MP has confused the House,” said Ismail yesterday.
Last August, Lim told Parliament that the government had been “robbed”, referring to RM19.4 billion meant for GST refunds that were not in the refund account.
Ariff said that he had arrived at his decision after considering the PAC report on the missing funds.
Unhappy with the decision, Ismail said that the issue was not a matter of procedure but the “robbed” allegation was a serious matter.
“The PAC report states that the money was not used for non-government purposes. The money was just not placed in the refunds account but in the consolidated account,” said Ismail.
“Lim’s allegations were wrong,” he said.
Various MPs also contested Ariff’s decision, citing parts of the PAC report.
“If you want to raise the issues in the PAC Report, please file a motion to discuss the report.
“As far as whether Lim has misled Parliament, the Speaker’s decision is final,” said Ariff, prompting some opposition MPs to stage a walkout.
Opposition lawmakers accused the Speaker of double standards and being biased.
“The speaker was trying to defend YB Bagan and this seems like he (speaker) was trying to defend Bagan’s claims that the GST money was robbed by the previous government,” Ismail said in a press conference at the Parliament lobby.
The opposition, he said, was willing to forgo the motion provided that Lim retract his statement.
The Bera MP added that opposition MPs were penalised in several occasions in the past, while the same didn’t apply to those on the government bench.
Awang Solahudin Hashim (Pendang-PAS) said the speaker’s decision was biased.
He added that robbery was a criminal act and Lim was wrong to hurl such a serious accusation against the previous government.