pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE role of the Opposition in a democracy is to oppose.
This is how a system of check and balance is maintained in a parliamentary system. But what happened at the Dewan Rakyat last Friday when there was nary an Opposition during the Budget 2021 vote?
To describe the Opposition as failing to oppose would belittle the landslide support for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration at the Dewan Rakyat, as only 13 out of the 220 MPs present stood up against the overwhelming voice vote. So, why did the Opposition meekly submit?
So far, what was reported was that at the final hour, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (picture) pulled the plug on the Pakatan Harapan (PH) rejection of the budget.
What happened to all his fiery rhetoric? It took Anthony Loke, the DAP party whip, to apologise on behalf of the Opposition bloc. And he admitted that PH had no choice but to offer up its unconditional support because the alternative wasn’t politically acceptable any more in the context of the nation’s desperate fight against Covid-19 ravages.
He explained that if PH had voted against the budget, the Opposition would have been attacked for denying the advice of the King; for denying civil servants salaries; and more critically for denying aids to the bottom 40% income group, as well as farmers and fishermen.
While this would have been highly likely, PH was already attacked for this beforehand. If what Loke said was true, and if this was the view of the Opposition, then why was the call to vote to pass the budget only made with minutes to spare?
If the story we are being sold is true, then PH could have stood up for bloc voting with the steadfast opposing 13 and simply abstained during the vote. The budget would have still passed unopposed, but the lack of support would have been welcomed as a symbolic gesture.
This lack of unity is the very reason why PH’s time in power only lasted 22 months. Once again, Anwar proved that he is his own worst enemy — flip-flopping and indecisive when it really matters. While I hoped that the budget would pass with some concessions, the Opposition he’s leading let us down again, adding insult to injury by actually supporting the PN bloc instead of symbolically abstaining.
Before the passing of the budget, Opposition leaders came out with multiple demands in order to garner their support for the budget if the PN government made key concessions.
However, when the time to be really counted came, no one from the Opposition block stood with the 13 MPs.
History will judge them and perhaps voters will remember this. The irony is that, when you don’t stand, you stand for nothing.
The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.