Opposition MPs Frustrated, Regret Not Supporting Budget Bloc Voting

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Parti Amanah Negara vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa is the latest Pakatan Harapan lawmaker to express regret over not supporting bloc voting for the budget.

“Regrets over pulling the handbrake on the budget…”

However, he said, frustrations were soothed when Pakatan Harapan’s and Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club’s demands on the budget were met.

Mujahid did not address why some of his party MPs, including office bearers such as Datuk Mahfuz Omar and its secretary-general Datuk Dr Hatta Ramli stood up.

Mujahid joins a list of Pakatan Harapan lawmakers explaining their failure to institute a bloc (division) vote, with only 13 people standing up to register their opposition to the fiscal plan. The minimum requirement is 15.

He and the others were criticised on social media by supporters for their “lame excuses”.

Meanwhile, DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang “welcomed” the storm of protest.

“It is the surest sign that the quest for a New Malaysia is still very much alive. I see the protests in a very positive light.

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“Even my former political secretary, Dyana Sofya as well as other DAP leaders, including the DAP Malacca Ayer Keroh Assemblyman Kerk Chee Yee and the Selangor Subang Jaya State Assemblywoman Michelle Ng, protested.”

He, however, claimed there were a number of misconceptions as to what transpired.

“There is firstly the misconception that Opposition MPs, apart from those who stood up calling for a division, had succumbed to pressure and voted in support of the 2021 Budget. This is not the case. The Opposition MPs, including those who stood up calling for a division, all voted against the 2021 budget – but it was by a very loud negative voice vote against a ‘Yes’ voice vote and not by division, with every MP recording ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the vote.”

He said Anwar’s last-minute turn not to call for a division vote completely sent him “in the dark”, while saying that he could surmise the reasons that led to it.

Lim said the reasons included the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s advice to support Budget 2021 and the winding-up speech by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz where he announced extra goodies.

Subang Jaya MP Wong Chen also said he was taken aback over the decision not to institute a division vote.

“Nevertheless, a decision was made by the leader of the opposition, supported by the PH whips and after that decision was made, we gathered for a meeting to discuss what transpired.”

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He was one of the fiercest critics of the budgets and had earlier warned that Employees’ Provident Fund risks a RM71 billion financial burden with the increased withdrawal allowance.

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar alongside Johor Baru MP Akmal Nasir and Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim also acknowledged the failure of the Opposition to vote down the budget yesterday following orders by party leaders to stand down.

Nurul Izzah said PH supporters had, however, made it emphatically clear that it was crucial for lawmakers to be dictated by their conscience in matters of national importance.

“We ourselves were ready to vote down the budget until the last-minute instructions to stand down, which we adhered to as per the conventions of party discipline.

“We want to honour that trust placed in us and act accordingly,” she said in a statement.

She said it was the MPs duty to represent people’s interests but admitted that they fell short of fulfilling expectations which left many of its supporters disappointed.

“As members of parliament, we must, first and foremost, represent our constituents in the Dewan Rakyat.

“As members of the Opposition in a parliamentary democracy, we also have the responsibility of providing sufficient checks and balances against the excesses of the government,” she said.

Nurul Izzah said it was consequently incumbent on the MPs to rectify matters and acknowledge their shortcomings which they intend to do through the setup of an Economic, Social and Welfare Caucus in Parliament to address the alleged Budget 2021’s failures to provide sufficient social safety nets for the underprivileged.

Earlier, Anwar acknowledged that both DAP and Amanah had wanted to force a division vote of the House during Thursday’s voting on Budget 2021, and that he had instructed them to stand down.

He also reiterated they could still make a firm stand by moving for bloc votes in the coming weeks. – NST