Zafrul answers on behalf of PM, move draws flak from Opposition


PETALING JAYA: The move by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz to answer questions on behalf of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on the National Recovery Plan (NRP) in Parliament had drawn the ire of Opposition lawmakers.

Muhyiddin (PN-Pagoh) was present in Parliament on Monday (July 26) morning to give a speech on the NRP, but failed to appear in the evening to answer the questions raised by MPs during the debates.

Tengku Zafrul stood up to answer the questions on Muhyiddin's behalf, but lawmakers from the Opposition aisle wasted no time before interjecting.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PH-Port Dickson) said never before in Parliament history had a Prime Minister ever made a Finance Minister answer questions on such a substantive matter on his behalf.

RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong), Gobind Singh Deo (PH-Puchong) and Datuk Seri Azis Jamman (Warisan-Sepanggar) were also among those who compelled Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun to make a ruling for Muhyiddin to attend Parliament and answer.

Steven Sim (PH-Bukit Mertajam) asked if Muhyiddin was still interested in becoming the Prime Minister.

"We want to ask questions about policies and the law, and the Finance Minister can't answer these.

"If the Prime Minister is not here, then why can't the Deputy Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob) answer?" questioned Rayer, referring to Ismail Sabri (PN-Bera) who was seated in the hall.

Ismail Sabri replied that Muhyiddin had presented the NRP and so questions on the state of emergency by the Opposition MPs were "out of topic".

"The Finance Minister is the coordinating minister for the National Recovery Plan. That is why he is answering the questions," said Ismail Sabri, to which the Opposition MPs retorted by saying that Tengku Zafrul is already scheduled to take the floor on Thursday (July 26).

However, Azhar directed Tengku Zafrul to continue.

"What a way to end the first day of this highly irregular and unusual sitting. It has been a complete fiasco," said Wong Chen (PH-Subang) in a statement.

Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) expressed her disappointment that the Speaker did not allow her to stand up and debate issues relating to women, mental health, suicide, MySejahtera and the contract doctors' strike.

However, Kasthuri said what was doubly disappointing was the fact that Muhyiddin handed over his responsibility to Tengku Zafrul to answer questions on the NRP.

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