Amanah MP Hanipa: Anwar’s Message Did Not Reach Us

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Amanah MPs stood up to push for a bloc vote on the budget yesterday because they did not receive opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s message to allow it to pass at the policy stage, said Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin.

In a Facebook post, Hanipa gave his side of the story on what transpired in Parliament, when the majority of opposition MPs had opted against an individual vote for the passage of the budget.

Hanipa said Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and vice-president Mujahid Yusof did not stand out of respect for Anwar’s instructions and in the spirit of solidarity for Pakatan Harapan (PH).

“The Amanah president, we believe, might not have had the time or overlooked passing on the opposition leader’s message to Amanah MPs.

“Therefore, for Amanah MPs, we were confident there was no problem in standing up in support of Pokok Sena (Mahfuz Omar) yesterday,” he said, adding that it was a “spontaneous action”.

Despite the budget being passed at the policy stage, Hanipa said, the government was not “out of the woods yet” as there were still the debates at the committee stage, which will take place from Monday.

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“In terms of procedure, the passing of the budget is determined by the third reading of the Supply Bill (2021). That day, God willing, will be ‘the grand finale’,” Hanipa said.

The budget was passed through a voice vote after Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz tabled it for a second reading. Hanipa was one of the 13 MPs who stood up.

Meanwhile, former federal territories minister Khalid Samad insisted to online news outlet JomChannel that the Amanah lawmakers’ visibly different position from others in PH was not an indication of a rift in the Opposition coalition.

“What happened in Parliament was so unexpected that we did not have time to discuss what we were going to do after hearing about all the additions the finance minister was going to put into the Budget.

“He was offering so much candy to the public that I suppose the others were worried about how we would be perceived if we decided to oppose the Budget, which would mean Malaysians wouldn’t get the sweets the finance minister was tossing up.

“However, rest assured this does not mean PH (Pakatan Harapan) is broken. We are still united, and I want to say we feel Budget 2021 is a farce. It is full of lies and deceit and vagary,” he said.

Khalid asserted that some of the MPs such as DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu who were seated near Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could hear the instructions not to stand to trigger a division of the House.

Khalid did not offer an explanation for why over one hundred other Opposition MPs were able to receive Anwar’s message.

Anwar explained after the sitting yesterday that he urged the Opposition not to block Budget 2021 at the policy stage to avoid being seen as the ones preventing Malaysians from receiving the assistance measures proposed within.

Prior to the vote, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced several concessions to demands from both sides of the political divide, which included extending the loan moratorium for all B40 income earners and small businesses as well as allowing eight million EPF contributors to withdraw up to RM10,000 from their Account 1 in a lump sum instead of RM6,000 over 12 months.

Khalid mocked Tengku Zafrul for these announcements, however, and said the latter could be the first finance minister to supplement a federal Budget before it was even passed.

He also claimed the minister gave no explanation for how the additional spending would be funded as the deficit projection was unchanged.

“He (Tengku Zafrul) was saying all sorts of ridiculous things like ‘I’ll give you this, I’ll give you that, these people will get more money, that group will get more allocation, we will allow you to withdraw money from your retirement savings’.

“That doesn’t really help the public, and the lip service may mislead them into thinking this is a better Budget than the earlier one, as they are expecting more money to come their way.

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“It’s odd, isn’t it, that a finance minister can add so much but can’t tell us where the money’s coming from or are we taking in more borrowings? It’s ludicrous what he’s saying.”

Khalid then echoed Anwar in saying that Opposition lawmakers would put Budget 2021 under a microscope at the committee stage starting Monday.

Voting on Budget 2021 had been under extreme scrutiny yesterday, as there was expectation that it could be rejected.

By convention, a rejection of the federal Budget is considered a successful vote of no-confidence against the ruling party and should be met by the resignation of the entire Cabinet.

Despite the anticipation based on Anwar’s claim in September of securing a “formidable” majority with which to take over the government, however, the expected opposition to the Budget 2021 was reduced to just 13 MPs trying to force a division of the House.