KUALA LUMPUR: Despite calls for a bipartisan effort towards next year’s budget, Malaysia’s opposition parties have indicated that there will be no blanket support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government.
Last Friday (Oct 23), following a special Cabinet meeting, Mr Muhyiddin had gone to Pahang to meet with Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to present his suggestions to declare a state of emergency, citing the worsening COVID-19 situation and ongoing political instability.
After meeting with the Malay Rulers, the king said on Sunday that he felt there was no need to declare a state of emergency.
Following this blow to the government, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) after a series of meetings announced late on Monday night that they would continue supporting the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Mr Muhyiddin.
This was after heavy speculation that many UMNO members including party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were behind the idea of supporting opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The latter on Oct 13 claimed that he commanded a majority in terms of parliamentary support.
Soon after the announcement by UMNO, its coalition partner Parti Islam Se-Malaysia pledged “undivided loyalty” to the current prime minister.
In light of the developments, Mr Anwar then issued a statement on Tuesday calling for a bipartisan effort for budget 2021 which is set to be tabled on Nov 6.
“In relation to Budget 2021 that is due to be tabled soon, both the government and the opposition must take a bipartisan approach in crafting a robust strategy to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing issue of unemployment and poverty.
“It (the budget) should encompass the efforts and roles of government and opposition in devising potent strategies to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
On the same day, PN’s information chief and Senior Minister for Economy Azmin Ali said that Malaysian politicians should set aside their ideological differences to unite and combat the third wave of the COVID-19 outbreak to restore the economy.
The king has also urged MPs to give “solid support” to the upcoming budget.
Here’s what the main opposition parties are saying in the lead up to next week’s tabling of the budget:
NO BLANKET SUPPORT, SAYS PKR VICE PRESIDENT
In an interview with CNA, Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) vice president Xavier Jayakumar said that bipartisan support came with its conditions.
“When Mr Anwar talked about bipartisan support, there were strings attached. It is not blanket support.
“We are going to hold a presidential council meeting tomorrow for Pakatan Harapan (PH) and then we will release a statement on our demands for Budget 2021, on what we think is best. We cannot just give blanket support because we do not know the contents of the budget,” he said on Wednesday.
Dr Jayakumar added that the party was not willing to give blind support.
“There has been no discussion (on the contents of budget 2021) and we cannot blindly go and support it. We have our demands and we will put them forth. If they (the government) are agreeable, then we will see how we can work with the prime minister’s office.
“We are open to discussion subject to their agreement to consider our demands,” he said.
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT NEEDS TO BE NEGOTIATED: DAP ORGANISING SECRETARY
The Democratic Action Party (DAP) has also indicated that the bipartisan effort as espoused by Mr Anwar was not without conditions.
Organising secretary Anthony Loke told CNA that his party was ready to give bipartisan support for budget 2021. However, he said that the form and approach of the support is still to be finalised.
“We are prepared for bipartisan support for sure, but what needs to be finalised is in what form and what approach. That needs to be negotiated.
“Everyone should take a bipartisan stand. If you look at the statement by UMNO, ultimately, they are also asking for bipartisan support. So they know that the opposition has 119 members of parliament and that you need a bipartisan approach in order for things to happen. I do not understand why anyone would say otherwise,” said Mr Loke.
He added that he did not want to pre-empt the contents of budget 2021 but stressed that it was preferable to have discussions and negotiations done.
Mr Loke urged the prime minister to engage the opposition.
He said: “If we are willing to work on a bipartisan approach, we have 91 MPs in Pakatan Harapan alone. UMNO as a whole only has 39 MPs and we know they do not have an entirely united front. But that we will leave it to them.
“We are very focused and we have said it time and again that we are prepared to work on a bipartisan approach. So ask Mr Muhyiddin to do the right thing as there is more urgency now after what happened last weekend. Just ceasefire and work out a bipartisan solution.”
AMANAH TO CHAMPION INTERESTS OF THE PEOPLE
With COVID-19 hurting the economy and livelihoods of Malaysians, Parti Amanah Negara said it would work towards a budget that is focused on the people.
The party’s strategic director Dzulkefly Ahmad told CNA that Amanah was waiting to present its suggestions for budget 2021 to the PH coalition in a meeting scheduled on Thursday.
He said: “We hope to represent something by way of what we do as opposition and present an alternative that is very focused on post-COVID 19, which includes management of the economy and finance. But it must all be subject to discussion.
“Of course we have always championed the interests of the people, particularly the lower income group.”
After the pandemic, there should be allocation on COVID-19 recovery, social protection, spurring local investment and looking into the disposable income of the lower income group, he said.
The former health minister said the focus of next year’s budget should be more than just being bipartisan.
“It is not so much about being bipartisan, it is about getting policies right and turning around the economy by having the right kind of policies which are appropriate to spur growth. The inequality (in terms of income) right now needs to be understood,” he said.
By : D Kanyakumari – CNA