Why did Amanah MPs stand against Budget 2021 when Pakatan did not? Khalid Samad explains

The former federal territories minister and eight of his party’s lawmakers were among the 13 including those from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang who tried in vain to trigger a division of the House.

Khalid 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.

“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.

Mohamad was among the 13 who tried to initiate a bloc vote.

Khalid also 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.

“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.

Opposition should have gone for bloc voting on Budget 2021, says Selangau MP

Baru observed some confusion within the Opposition before voting took place with a last-minute instruction from the Opposition Whip on not going for bloc voting. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Baru observed some confusion within the Opposition before voting took place with a last-minute instruction from the Opposition Whip on not going for bloc voting. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUCHING― Selangau MP Baru Bian asserted today that the Opposition should have forced a bloc voting on the principle that the federal Budget 2021 is not comprehensive and that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) is not a government with Malaysians’ mandate.

He said he was one of the 13 federal lawmakers who stood up in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday seeking a bloc vote against the Budget, which he felt was not just nor fair.

“We have voiced our dissatisfaction like many others including neutral parties, but our concerns were not taken into account in Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz’s winding-up speech and no amendments were made to the Budget.

He said Tengku Zafrul may have made some concessions but many were not considered or not very clear.

“By our parliamentary convention that follows the Westminster system, in the event the Budget is defeated, the inference is that the prime minister’s government has lost its command in Parliament, thus throwing doubt on its credibility to lead the country.

“Whether we succeed or not is another issue altogether,” he added.

He said PSB’s stand to vote against the Budget is premised on principles grounded on the two initial reasons. Likewise, he said the Opposition should have done the same.

Baru observed some confusion within the Opposition before voting took place with a last-minute instruction from the Opposition Whip on not going for bloc voting.

“That is why I believe fewer than 15 MPs stood up. PKR and DAP MPs were looking at their leaders whether to stand up or not.

“I noticed some stood up and later sat down as their leaders did not stand up to indicate going for bloc voting,” he said.

Perikatan Nasional’s inaugural Budget 2021 cleared the policy stage in Parliament yesterday on a voice vote.

Only 13 MPs stood up and were counted when Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun called for those opposing to do so, though their identities were not made immediately clear as coverage of Parliament has been limited to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

A minimum of 15 lawmakers was needed to oppose for the voice vote to fail.

The Budget will now go to the committee stage, for its specific allocations to be debated and voted on.