KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition MPs staged a walkout in Parliament on Monday (April 3) as a sign of protest after their emergency motion to debate on targeted withdrawals from the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) was rejected.
Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad (PN-Machang) said he received a response from the Dewan Rakyat Speaker's office that his emergency motion was rejected last Friday (March 31) as the matter had been explained by both the Finance Minister and his deputy.
"However, there are still many complaints and grouses from the rakyat and they are still unhappy with the response by the minister and deputy minister.
"I hope the Dewan will be allowed to debate this matter today (Monday)," he said in Parliament.
However, Deputy Speaker Alice Lau cited Standing Order 43, saying that the Speaker's decision was final.
"If you are unhappy with the decision, please file a separate motion," she said.
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Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (PN-Arau) then stood up, supporting the call to debate on the matter.
"I have also written a letter to the Speaker but there is no answer yet.
"I support (the debate)... the rakyat wants it to be discussed," he added.
Lau then told Shahidan that the matter had been decided.
"This is the Speaker's decision, if you are unhappy, please meet with the Speaker," she said.
Several Opposition MPs then stood up to call for the matter to be debated.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said that this was an urgent matter and many wanted it to be debated.
"Some are even willing to walk from Johor to Istana Negara over this matter.
"Is the government not aware that the people on the ground are waiting for a decision to be made immediately?" he added.
Lau then repeated that the Speaker had made a decision.
"I cannot make a ruling now (as the Speaker has decided)," she explained.
Datuk Awang Hashim (PN-Pendang) then interjected, saying that the matter relates to the people's interest.
An irked Lau then told Awang off, reiterating that a decision had been made.
"How can I make another ruling? The Standing Order clearly stated that the Speaker's decision is final.
"If you are unhappy, please file a motion on this," she said.
Hamzah then said that if the matter cannot be debated, the Opposition would walk out as a sign of protest.
Datuk Mohd Isam Md Isa (BN-Tampin) then said it was just a ploy by the Opposition to stage a walkout.
"Actually, we have debated this previously. It does not mean we do not care about the interest of the rakyat," said Mohd Isam.
However, the MPs returned to the Dewan Rakyat in less than 30 minutes after holding a short press conference.
At the press conference, Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan (PN-Kota Baru) argued that the motion to debate the proposed targeted EPF withdrawals was needed as it was an issue of public interest.
“Backbencher leaders said we weren’t asking questions in the Dewan Rakyat. We are raising an important motion here and yet it was rejected," he said.
Takiyuddin also said the Opposition intended to refer Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to the Rights and Privileges Committee for misleading Parliament by announcing a new policy on allowing bank loans based on EPF savings as collateral.
“Section 51 is clear that this (EPF-backed loans) is not allowed.
“We felt this motion should be accepted by the House and the Finance Minister (Anwar) should be referred to the rights and privileges committee,” said Takiyuddin.
He also said it was important to debate the motion as the current Parliament sitting would end on Tuesday (April 4).
However, Takiyuddin said the Opposition MPs were not staging a walkout in Parliament.
“We will enter (the House later). We came out to protest against the answer by the Deputy Speaker.
“A chance should have been given to the Finance Minister to explain,” he added.