Putting the people over politics

PETALING JAYA: Opposition MPs have pledged that they will observe the principle of “people over politics” as far as Budget 2021 goes.

Several of them stressed that it is important to be a responsible Opposition for the sake of national interest, with one MP stating it is time to put aside partisan interests.

Although it remains to be seen whether the Opposition will support Budget 2021, this augurs well for the upcoming Budget 2021 debates following Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz’s meeting last Sunday with some Opposition MPs to discuss the Budget ahead of its tabling on Friday.

This has lent credibility to speculation that there is the possibility that the Budget will be supported by both ruling and Opposition MPs for the first time in Malaysia.

Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) said it was time politicians practise bipartisanship as the people were going through economic and health crises.

“People first over politics. If the Budget serves the interest of fellow Malaysians, I will be sure to support it.

“When there is support from the Opposition for a Budget for the people mooted by the ruling party, it means MPs are able to put aside hyper-partisan interest for the sake of national interest. Malaysia needs more bipartisanship, ” said Saddiq.

Parti Warisan Sabah’s Penampang MP Darell Leiking said that Budget 2021 must be fair and focused on all constituencies.

“There may be ideas from the Opposition which Perikatan Nasional can adopt and respect the voters who made a choice. Allocations for all constituencies should be given and not denied to Opposition representatives, ” said Leiking.

“Politics should remain only during an election to entice voters, but once the latter has made a choice, the government should be a government of the people.”

However, Selayang MP William Leong of PKR said that he would not blindly support Budget 2021.

“It is simply irrational to ask us to support something we won’t know about until it is announced on Friday.

“It will be wrong to support something that is not in the interest of the people. We cannot just blindly support.

“The Perikatan government has gotten caught with their own fears that they lack legitimacy by asking for Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional to support the Budget beforehand, ” said Leong.

“It would have been more effective if they had maintained the Parliament select committees to discuss Budget issues.

“We were not told what is in the actual Budget or any indication of it.

“We will read through Budget 2021 before we debate and offer our comments and suggestions. We have always been a responsible, loyal Opposition, ” he added.

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok of DAP said her main concern was who stands to benefit from Budget 2021, and not who mooted it.

“We (the Opposition) will support whatever policies of the government if it is for the good of the nation, ” said Kok.

Pokok Sena MP and Parti Amanah Nasional vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar stated that the Budget presented by the government must lighten the burden of the people, lessen wastage, and shrink the Cabinet.

“If we oppose the Budget, it is not that we want to overthrow the government, but for want of a better Budget, ” said Mahfuz.

On Oct 28, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah urged all MPs to put aside politics and support Budget 2021.

In last Sunday’s meeting, Pakatan leaders presented Tengku Zafrul with six proposals, which include increasing resources for the Health Ministry to fight Covid-19, the extension of the bank loan repayment moratorium and the continuation of the wage subsidy programme until March 31,2021, the expansion of social safety net such as increasing monthly welfare aid to RM1,000 until the Covid-19 crisis is over, increase in education spending, and allocations for the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan as well as the upgrading of water supply infrastructure in Selangor, Kelantan and Pahang.

Bagan MP and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said after the meeting that a “Unity Budget” was crucial in upholding the royal decree.

“A Unity Budget is crucial to avoid additional requests for an emergency, and also to avoid a snap general election, which will only worsen Covid-19 infections.

“The Unity Budget is not equivalent to the so-called ‘unity government’ as speculated.

“If any of the six key measures proposed by Pakatan is rejected, then there will be no Unity Budget that can work to benefit the nation, the economy and the rakyat, ” said Lim.

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