pic By TMR
DEWAN Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof has ruled out a motion filed by the Opposition to refer Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to the Rights and Privileges Committee.
Mohamad Ariff said there were no grounds to refer Lim to the committee over his statement in the lower house last year where he alleged that RM14.9 million in Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds were “stolen” by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
“I find that the Bagan MP had no intention to mislead and hence, it does not fall under Rule 36 (12) of the Standing Orders,” the speaker told the Parliament yesterday. This drew the ire of members from the Opposition who described the ruling as unfair.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (picture) described the ruling as a double standard and told the speaker to not set the wrong precedence as stern action had been taken against Opposition MPs for making derogatory remarks.
However, Mohamad Ariff maintained his stand and said: “My decision is final. You can file a separate motion on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report to be debated if you wish to.”
Umno secretary general Tan Sri Annuar Musa (BN-Ketereh) then suggested that Lim retracted his statement and for the word “stolen” to be expunged from the hansard. Mohamad Ariff again rejected the request.
This prompted Opposition MPs, including Ismail Sabri (BN-Bera), Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau), Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam), Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) and Awang Hashim (PAS-Pendang) to stage a walkout.
In a press conference, Ismail Sabri said the speaker is “clearly biased” towards the government.
The Opposition bloc reiterated the motion to have Lim to be referred to the committee as fair.
Khairy questioned Mohamad Ariff’s integrity and said: “How can he even be a judge? Useless fella.”
Lim later dismissed calls for him to apologise over his statement that RM19.4 billion in GST credit refunds were “stolen”, saying that the issue was not brought up in the PAC report.
“I think the speaker had already said that you must see what the context was. I feel the context was used last year, and this matter was not brought up in the PAC report, so it is not relevant,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.
The PAC on Monday confirmed that RM19.4 billion worth of GST refunds, which allegedly went missing from the government’s coffers, had actually been diverted to finance operating and development expenditure.
PAC chairman Datuk Noraini Ahmad said the previous BN administration had overestimated the GST revenue generated which resulted in the shortfall.