It’s back to the drawing board


PUTRAJAYA: It is back to preparing for Budget 2021 and finding more effective measures to combat Covid-19 for the government after the King decided against declaring a state of emergency for the country.

Sources said the special Cabinet meeting had included, among others things, possible scenarios should the Budget be defeated by the opposition.

However, besides the special meeting – held for the second time in four days – other political meetings on the sidelines are equally sparking intrigue among observers.

One of this was the meeting among Barisan Nasional lawmakers and high on its agenda was the decision on whether Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should step down as Prime Minister.

But there was no immediate outcome as MPs who emerged from behind closed doors merely stated that the Umno supreme council would decide on the matter.

As of press time, the supreme council is still meeting.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is from Umno, said the issue of the Parliament’s dissolution was not discussed during the special Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“This issue did not come up at all. Although I can’t mention it, to answer the question – it wasn’t brought up or discussed, ” he said.

He was responding to a purported screenshot of an Umno division leaders’ WhatsApp group chat circulating on social media, showing text allegedly attributed to him.

The message had apparently quoted Ismail Sabri as saying that he would propose to the Prime Minister to seek an audience with the King to dissolve Parliament.

“Nowadays, there is a lot of fake news that is being spread, ” said Ismail Sabri, adding that “many things are happening every day to confuse the public.”

Sources said the special Cabinet meeting had focused solely on administrative matters and the government’s agenda, with the Budget being the main highlight.

“We talked about what needs to be done in tackling the alarming number of Covid-19 infections now.

“Solving this problem will enable us to clear other issues such as the people’s well-being and the economy, ” said a source.

Another source said the Cabinet decided to go full steam ahead with its preparations for the Budget.

“We want to strengthen it further by making it the most people-friendly Budget due to the pandemic and economic slowdown.

“All agreed unanimously that there must be no loopholes for the Opposition or any detractor to say no to the Budget and if they do, they would be seen as selfish politicians out to only save themselves, ” said the source, adding that they also discussed the possible scenarios should the Budget be defeated.

“For now, we want to remain optimistic that it will be passed but we are preparing for other avenues – other than a general election – if some MPs decide to go against the King’s call, ” said the source.

Before chairing the meeting, Muhyiddin had met PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and MIC president Tan Sri SA Vigneswaran although both men declined to reveal the outcome to reporters.

The absence of Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who claimed to be unwell, had raised eyebrows, especially when he was later seen at the meeting with the Barisan lawmakers.

His deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, did not attend the meeting either, confirming that he “did not have any meeting with the Prime Minister.”

On Sunday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had decided that there was no need to declare a state of emergency in the country after a meeting with the Malay Rulers, during which they went through the government’s proposal and felt that it had managed to effectively contain the pandemic.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir said it was important to have the support of Barisan lawmakers to ensure the Budget’s smooth passage in Parliament and to tackle economic and health challenges in the country.

The Prime Minister, he added, needed to get support from the Opposition for his Budget or else, “it will not be in line with the King’s advice.”“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong has told both sides of the divide to set aside their differences and focus on addressing the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic, ” said Prof Jeniri, warning that Muhyiddin’s position would be in jeopardy if he could not get the support.

“The King’s advice must be taken seriously and they should stop politicking or risk pushing the country into another crisis, ” he said.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s political analyst Prof Dr Jayum Jawan said the Prime Minister’s position had been shaky from the start.

“This is because overall, he holds a very slim majority while leading a party that does not have a dominant position in the coalition and without a large number of parliamentary seats, ” he said.

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