Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Speaker slams opposition in narrow Budget vote

Source: (By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani)
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia today criticised the Pakatan Rakyat for taking advantage of absent Barisan Nasional lawmakers, and trying to defeat the Budget 2010 last night. Pandikar called it dishonourable to catch the government with “their pants down” during the third and final reading of the budget proposals before it goes to the Senate. “The opposition should not have taken advantage of the situation when there weren’t enough BN MPs,” he said when commenting on the narrow 66-63 approval for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s first Budget as prime minister. “It should not be a question of catching the government with their pants down because that would not be a gentlemanly and honourable kind of thing,” Pandikar explained to reporters in his chambers here. He added that Parliament is a gentlemen’s club for both the opposition and the government to debate questions of national interest. Pandikar also stressed that Barisan Nasional lawmakers should not take their parliamentary majority for granted. “For the BN they must not take [their majority] for granted and in any sitting for that matter. “But for all parliamentarians, on both sides of the divide, when they want to talk then they will attend. When there is something of particular interests they want to bring up, then they will be there. If there is nothing that interests them, then they will not be there,” he added. Najib and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat saved Barisan Nasional the blushes when they turned up to tilt support to the ruling coalition who lost its customary two-third parliamentary majority in Election 2008. Najib had to rush from a dinner, organised by Cheong Hwa Private Secondary School, and changed his batik shirt before entering the Parliament. It is understood that this is the first time that the national budget was approved with such a narrow margin. A rejection would have negative implications for the Barisan Nasional government which has been in power since independence in 1957, when it was known as the Alliance. In a parliamentary democracy, a rejected budget is seen as a no-confidence vote towards the ruling government and indirectly opens the way for the formation of a new government. The Malaysian Insider understands that the top leadership of the rival blocs have directed strict action to be taken against their lawmakers who were missing in last night’s vote. It was understood that Najib issued a stern warning to the lawmakers, and was furious this morning in Parliament. The Dewan Rakyat has extended its sessions in the past weeks to finish its business by this Thursday before it takes the year-end recess. Before the crucial third reading, the Budget was approved by just one vote at the committee-stage debate for the Home Ministry — which was the last ministry to have its allocation approved. Barisan Nasional has 137 of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, followed by Pakatan Rakyat’s 82 and three Independents. The Dewan Rakyat ended its annual Budget session at 11.15pm after the third reading was concluded.
It is understood the government bench realised its peril after the DAP Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng asked for a vote by division upon the conclusion of the debate by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop at the committee stage. Pandikar acceded to the request and the vote went 64-63 in Barisan Nasional’s favour. The situaton recurred during the vote at the end of the Budget’s third reading when DAP Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran asked for a vote by division. By this time, Najib and Ong had taken their seats and the Budget 2010 was approved with 66 votes for, and 63 votes against. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, stressed that BN lawmakers have to be more careful and must take this matter seriously. “I think now they have to be careful because nothing can be taken for granted now. This is a different parliament and I hope the MPs will take their jobs seriously on both sides. So I hope this a lesson for all. “This is the second time and this is more frightening because it involves the Budget bill. So I hope this matter will awaken the MPs especially from Barisan Nasional so they seriously take their responsibility to attend the parliament,” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby here. The BN deputy added that there was nothing he could do as the lawmakers had been informed. “They are all very important people and they have been informed to attend the Parliament. If they want more than that then maybe they can give me a gun and I will place it near their head. If they don’t come then I will shoot them. That will show that I am doing my work,” he added.

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