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A civil Dewan Rakyat sitting ends – now for the Budget

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 12/10/2021 Minderjeet Kaur
The King opening the sitting on Sept 13. This time around, there was little of the usual bickering, name-calling and barbs. (Bernama pic) © Provided by Free Malaysia Today The King opening the sitting on Sept 13. This time around, there was little of the usual bickering, name-calling and barbs. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: For once, the Dewan Rakyat was civil. The sitting which ended today was devoid of the usual mocking and exchange of insults and barbs.

Both sides of the divide seemed to give the impression they were actually practising the “Malaysian Family” slogan touted by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Even when one side riled the other with snide comments, the other side would back down instead of hitting back. In fact, the slogan was overused by MPs during the debates and became a bit too familiar.

However, the civility was not surprising as the sitting came after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and the Pakatan Harapan coalition to work together on issues such as tackling the pandemic, economic recovery and reforms.

Ismail Sabri escapes attacks

Unlike the previous prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin who was constantly attacked by opposition MPs during the July special parliamentary sitting, Ismail escaped the wrath of the opposition, although he was heavily criticised by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on the issue of institutional reforms.

Anwar slammed the slow and delayed progress of the reforms promised under the MoU inked in September.

The MoU covers various areas including pushing the Covid-19 recovery plan, introducing administrative transformation, rejuvenating Parliament, ensuring the independence of judicial institutions and working on the Malaysia Agreement (MA63).

So far, the government has announced equal allocations for all MPs and the DAP’s Lim Guan Eng has been appointed to the 14th Parliamentary Select Committee to replace Bersatu’s Hamzah Zainudin.

Anwar has also received his “promotion letter”, granting him minister-level status and amenities for the office of the opposition leader. However, a number of other issues have yet to be addressed.

Argument over cabotage policy

Instead of personal attacks, the arguments this time centred around issues such as the country’s cabotage policy – after reports that giant tech companies had bypassed Malaysia, causing the country to lose billions in investments.

The argument between Guan Eng and transport minister Wee Ka Siong ended with the latter challenging Lim to a debate. The date of the debate will be announced by Wee at the end of the month.

The Pandora Papers

The leaked Pandora Papers caused an uproar when opposition MPs and speaker Azhar Harun became embroiled in heated exchanges after he rejected an emergency motion to debate it.

Anwar, the Port Dickson MP, had pushed for a debate on the leak as prominent Malaysian figures have been shown to have offshore accounts in the Virgin Islands and other tax havens, sometimes via Singapore.

But Azhar refused and was accused of acting like a lawyer for those named in the Pandora Papers leak.

The opposition also pushed for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police’s commercial crime division to initiate a probe.

The motion was left in limbo after deputy speaker Rashid Hasnon said today that it was still under consideration and would need two days before it could be approved. But the Dewan adjourned today.

Pause on KL liquor ban, praise from PAS

Another issue that was hotly argued was the ban on the sale of liquor at grocery and convenience stores and Chinese medical halls in Kuala Lumpur.

Federal Territories minister Shahidan Kassim said the government had put the decision on hold pending further talks, including with Pakatan MPs.

There was also rare praise for Guan Eng from a PAS MP for allocating RM100 million in funds for tahfiz schools under Budget 2020 when he was finance minister.

However, not all was friendly as Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut) and Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) expressed unhappiness with the answers given by deputy women, family and community development minister Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff.

They felt she was rushing to finish and not giving proper answers to issues raised such as that about women returning to work during the pandemic.

Bills passed and on hold

The sitting that started on Sept 13 and ended today saw the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech, the 12th Malaysia Plan and the Covid-19 Bill – that seeks approval for an additional expenditure of RM45 billion – being passed.

The Temporary Measures for Government Financing (Coronavirus Disease 2019) amendment Act 2021 Bill to increase the federal government’s statutory debt limit from 60% to 65% of gross domestic product (GDP) was also passed.

But the much-awaited revocation of the emergency ordinances was pushed to the next sitting on Oct 25.

As MPs return to their constituencies in the hope that they have achieved their voters’ expectations, everyone will wait eagerly for the Budget 2022 session on Oct 29.

That’s when everyone in the country can see what is in store for them and whether the government will help them overcome the worst health and economic crises the nation has ever faced.

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