Benefits of working together

WITH the exception of a shouting match over the issue of replacing the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, which resulted in the suspension of the MP for Jelutong for two days, the first meeting of the fourth session of the 14th Parliament on Sept 13 was notable for the absence of the usual shouting matches among MPs.

Although it’s still early days, this bodes well for the august institution, especially when cooler heads prevailed and the MP’s suspension was reduced to one day.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Transformation and Political Stability between the government and leaders of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) may help in fostering this positive development.

This historic moment was the result of repeated calls by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and was emphasised again in the Royal Address in which the King decreed that all MPs “return their focus on the efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and bring back light to the people and the country of their birth.”

This spirit of bipartisan togetherness in Parliament seems to have spilled over into the public arena on the issue of the government appealing the recent High Court ruling that recognises citizenship rights of children born abroad to Malaysian women.

Three ministers have joined many opposition MPs and leaders of civil society in hailing the landmark ruling. Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun, and Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar hailed the landmark ruling as illuminating and wished to see it implemented.

And in a rare move, which is a boon to the bipartisan cooperation envisaged in the MoU, 13 MPs from parties across the aisles, including Pejuang, Warisan and Muda, have banded together to seek the Prime Minister’s intervention to instruct Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to drop the appeal.

It is understood that a timeline for tabling and approving an anti-hopping law together with a constitutional amendment to limit the PM’s term in office to 10 years, and expediting the implementation of Undi18 and automatic voter registration have been agreed to be no later than the first meeting of the fifth session of Parliament, which is expected to be held in the first half of next year.

But the most important item in the MoU, at least from the rakyat’s perspective, is the strengthening of efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, which include the following:

1. An additional injection of RM45bil to the Covid-19 fund;

2. Additional funding will also be provided to enhance the “find, test, trace, isolate, support and vaccinate” system;

3. RM10bil aid provided to 11 million recipients in the second half of this year will be extended to 2022 for the B40 community and M40 income earners who have lost their jobs;

4. The Covid-19 consolidated fund will also be used to provide hiring incentives and support for small and medium enterprises, including the informal and micro sectors; and

5. The government will renegotiate with the banking sector to seek interest exemption for the bottom 50% income earners who have accepted a loan repayment moratorium for October, November and December.

If the government plays its part in this MoU, then the opposition would support or abstain during the Budget 2022 vote and related supply bills, and similarly support or abstain any bill or motion that can be construed as a vote of confidence.

All these are with the proviso that the drafting of Budget 2022 and other budget-related bills or any bills or motion must first be negotiated and agreed in principle between the government and opposition.

JAMARI MOHTAR , Director Media & Communications EMIR Research

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