Sunday September 30, 2012
Budget steals the thunder from polls talk
At The Dewan Rakyat Last Week
By MARTIN CARVALHO
Outside Parliament, it’s still the issue of Anwar and other Pakatan leaders using a private jet for their campaign.
BEFORE the start of the current Parliament sitting, there was much speculation that the polls would be called but it was business as usual for lawmakers for the unveiling of the Budget.
With this being widely regarded as the last sitting before the 13th general election, MPs from both sides of the political divide were keen to hear what Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had to offer.
Talk was rife among Pakatan Rakyat MPs that Najib would use the Budget to gear Barisan National for the polls by handing out goodies galore.
However, what has been proposed under Budget 2013 reflects Najib’s inclusive approach of striking a balance to benefit the people and nation, as outlined in its theme of “Prospering the Nation, Enhancing the Well-being of the Rakyat: A Promise Fulfilled”.
The Budget proposes several measures to sustain and engineer growth for the nation’s economy in addition to addressing social concerns and providing assistance to a wide section of society, and direct aid to the young and the old.
There was much table-thumping and cheers in the Dewan Rakyat from Barisan MPs when the Budget was announced.
In the Parliament lobby, outside the House, Pakatan MPs derided the Budget as a knee-jerk reaction to regain waning support by throwing a bunch of goodies to the rakyat before the polls.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim – who walked into the Dewan a few minutes after Najib began his speech – attacked the Budget as an election gimmick and reiterated his challenge to Najib for a one-on-one debate.
A heated debate there will be for sure but only between Government and Opposition lawmakers in the Dewan Rakyat in the coming weeks.
Before the tabling of the Budget, lawmakers from both sides and from different faiths came together and agreed on one thing – to condemn the highly controversial Innocence of Muslims film that has sparked outrage and fury around the world.
They unanimously passed a special motion which sent a clear message to the world that Malaysians do not condone “freedom of expression” being used to excuse acts of religious intolerance in a multi-cultural society.
Also much awaited is the tabling of the annual Auditor-General’s Report within the next two weeks. Last year’s report sparked controversy surrounding the National Feedlot Corporation, which went on to hog the headlines for a while.
As expected, Pakatan’s lawmakers were quick to accuse Barisan of delaying the tabling of the report by two weeks after Najib’s Budget announcement.
However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who is in charge of Parliamentary Affairs, said that the practice was introduced last year.
He explained that it was done to prevent the Auditor-General’s Report from taking the limelight off the Budget debates, adding that sufficient time has been allotted to debate the report later.
Outside the Dewan, the biggest story was Anwar’s jet-setting lifestyle.
The issue of Anwar and several PKR leaders using a luxury jet to campaign in Sabah was sparked by several photographs posted online by PKR vice-president Tian Chua.
Pro-Barisan bloggers questioned Anwar’s extravagance and stirred curiosity over who owned the plane and footed the exorbitant rental bill.
Anwar responded by saying that the plane was lent by a “friend whom he had known for sometime” who also agreed to settle the arrangement for the use of the aircraft.
But the mysterious benefactor remains unknown because Anwar said he was bound by agreement not to reveal the person’s identity.
Meanwhile, the bi-partisan Special Committee on Corruption also announced that it is ready to table its recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission via an independent commission to hire personnel.
It has also called for greater security of tenure for MACC’s commissioner who is appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
The panel has proposed that the commissioner’s removal can only be done through a tribunal hearing and brought to Parliament, just as in the removal of judges.
Panel chairman Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad explained that this would safeguard the independence of the post and ensure the person holding it is free from outside influence that can hinder his duties.
However, such a move will require constitutional amendments and it is yet to be seen if MPs from both sides will be united in approving the proposal.