Shouting match and confidence motion take centre stage

Lawmakers claim the expenses are implicit and regarded as ‘off-budget’ spending, signalling it is not being prioritised by the MoH


AFTER the Supply Bill (Budget) 2021 was passed at the second reading last month, expenses for 22 ministries have been debated this month.

So far, allocations for 14 ministries have been approved at the committee stage through simple voice votes.

The lower house saw expenses for 11 ministries passed last week through a rather “mild” sitting, but the debate session got serious for the Health Ministry’s (MoH) allocation, the third-largest expenditure in the supply bill.

Lawmakers claimed that the expenses were implicit and regarded as “off-budget” spending, signalling it was not being prioritised by the ministry.

During the winding-up session of the ministry, MPs from both sides of the divide took aim at Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, resulting in a shouting match.

Among the concerns raised was that the expenses for certain segments under the ministry were not detailed in the Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021, a document which spells out the Cabinet’s out- lay for the year.

The squabble continued even after Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun slammed his gavel five times.

“I have given the floor to the deputy minister to answer your questions and wind up. If he is not given a chance to speak, how are we going to conclude today’s session?

“If you don’t agree (with the answers), then it will be it. That is how it works,” Azhar told the MPs.

The no-confidence motions brought against Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, which have been under the spotlight in every meeting of the lower house this year, also got a mention last week.

Responding to a parliamentary query on the matter, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said there is no indication that the PM has lost the majority of the house.

He added that the trust in the PM was shown when Budget 2021 received a majority vote at the policy stage.

In effect, he said there is no urgency to bring forward the no-confidence and confidence motions submitted against Muhyiddin.

“MPs can submit a no-confidence or confidence vote against the PM, but such proposal must be in order and in accordance with the Meeting Rules 26(1) and 27(3) of the Regulations of the House of Representatives.

“According to the Meeting Rules, the arrangement must prioritise the government’s business and should take precedence over other matters,” Takiyuddin had said.

The matter was also brought to the Dewan Speaker’s attention as Azhar was quizzed by RSN Rayer (DAP-Jelutong) on his decision not to fast-track the motions in the current proceedings after they were rejected to be tabled and debated in the previous two meetings.

Azhar said his decision was not reached out of whims and fancies and is based on the ruling practices in the UK’s House of Commons following the Westminster Convention.

He added that according to his in-depth research on the West- minster Convention practices, which is observed by Malaysia, the House Speaker has no power to bring forward any motion of no-confidence or confidence ahead.

At present, there are 25 no-confidence motions and two confidence motions submitted against Muhyiddin for the current Dewan Rakyat sitting.

Former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad submitted a no-confidence vote during the first and second meetings of the 14th Parliament’s third session back in May and July.

Another highlight of last week’s sitting was the motions that proposed to reduce some amount from the bill.

Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah proposed a RM1.9 million allocation parked under the Environment and Water Ministry’s for Dubai Expo 2020 to be slashed completely and relocated to other ministries or for the efforts to fight Covid-19.

She argued that RM60 million was apportioned through the former Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry in 2019 for the exposition, however, the motion did not get enough support from the floor.

Another motion was proposed for the Special Affairs Department’s (JASA) allocation, which had been the point of contention in the lower house since it was announced.

It was proposed by Deputy Finance Minister I Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri to slash RM45 million from JASA’s initial RM85.5 million allocation, leaving the department with RM40.5 million.

The motion was passed through a bloc vote with 107 MPs voted in favour of the reduced allocation, while 100 voted against it.

This week, the MPs are expected to debate and vote on the remaining five ministries, including the largest ministerial allocation, the Education Ministry.

Read our earlier report

KKMM’s budget approved after JASA gets cut