KUALA LUMPUR: Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Seri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff decided that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng does not have to face Parliament's Rights and Privileges Committee, leading to a brief walkout by Opposition MPs.
The incident was sparked after Mohamad Ariff ruled that there were no grounds to refer Lim to the committee over his statement that RM15mil in GST refunds was “stolen” by the previous Barisan Nasional administration, denying a motion filed by Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
“I’ve made my ruling and my decision is final. You can file a separate motion for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report to be debated if you want,” Mohamad Ariff said in Parliament on Wednesday (July 17).
He said he had read the PAC report on the GST refunds and had found no provocation by Lim during his arguments on Aug 8 last year over unpaid GST refunds.
However, Ismail Sabri interjected, reminding the Speaker that the issue was over the words "perompak (robber)" and "mencuri (stealing)" by Lim, following the PAC's findings that the GST refunds were not missing.
He noted the PAC's findings that there have been procedural and accounting weaknesses, where GST refunds were channelled to the Consolidated Fund account.
“We are not asking Lim to be referred directly to the Committee. What we want is for the motion to be debated and a vote taken,” said Ismail Sabri.
However, the Speaker maintained his decision, which caused several Barisan lawmakers to object.
Tan Sri Annuar Musa (BN-Ketereh) suggested that Lim retract the use of the word "stolen", and to expunge the word from the Hansard.
However, Mohamad Ariff again rejected this and a shouting match ensued.
He later ruled that MPs should not use the words “podah (Tamil for 'get lost), pondan, perompak" or “communist” during debates.
Several Opposition MPs left the House in protest of the Speaker's decisions, but they came back into the House shortly after.
The PAC report on GST refunds that was released on Monday (July 15) said that no money went missing.
Instead, the funds were used for operational and development expenditures.
The PAC report also found that the previous administration had delayed the transfer of funds from the Consolidated Fund account into the GST refund account to manage the country's cash flow position to ensure the nation was not in deficit management.
The controversy started last August after Lim had said that the RM19.4bil GST refunds had been "stolen" by the former Barisan administration.
In a statement on Tuesday (July 16), Lim said the Finance Ministry would ensure that there is no repeat of what happened with the GST refunds.
He said the Pakatan government would respect the two principal recommendations in the PAC report to ensure that the legal contraventions and financial non-compliance – where monies meant for GST refunds were used for other government expenditures – will never happen again.
Following PAC's report, the Opposition, led by Ismail Sabri, brought a motion to refer Lim to the Rights and Privileges Committee for misleading the House by accusing the Barisan government of "robbing" the GST refunds.
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