KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 ― Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said his party will vote against the Perikatan Nasional government’s Budget 2021, dismissing claims that such a rejection would delay payment in salaries of civil servants or assistance to Malaysians.
Dr Mahathir, who chairs Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, instead said that such payments would not be affected even if Budget 2021 was rejected, and insisted that a revised or completely new Budget could be presented quickly in the Dewan Rakyat.
“Because of that, me and my friends take the stand to reject Budget 2021 and we do so with a full sense of responsibility and the trust that we hold on behalf of the public until the end of our term as wakil rakyat (people’s representatives),” the Langkawi MP said in his latest blog post.
While he did not mention who his “friends” are, Dr Mahathir’s party also has three other MPs, namely Pejuang president and Jerlun MP Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah, and Sri Gading MP Datuk Shahruddin Md Salleh.
In his blog post, Dr Mahathir expressed his disappointment in the debate process of the Budget in the Dewan Rakyat in the past few days, including limited time for debates, and an allegedly lack of intention by the government to listen to MPs’ views or public criticism.
Dr Mahathir said the government instead “threatened” MPs with the narrative that a rejection of Budget 2021 would mean that the salaries, allowances and pension of public servants and Covid-19 frontliners would not be paid, or that financial aid would not reach the public if the Budget is not approved.
Dr Mahathir however dismissed both such suggestions, pointing out that the government has actually already made allocations for all expenses for public servants and frontliners until the end of January 2021, and that financial payments can be made even without an approved Budget as had happened for Budget 2000.
He was referring to the situation in 1999 when he was prime minister, where the Budget 2000 presented in October 1999 was not debated as Parliament was dissolved in November for elections, and that the government voted in after elections had obtained Dewan Rakyat’s approval for early allocations for government spending for two to three months while waiting for a special parliamentary proceedings on the Budget 2000 in February 2000.
Dr Mahathir said that the current federal government however seemed to prioritise having Budget 2021 ― which he claimed to have political continuity as a priority instead of the public ― approved as soon as possible.
He highlighted as example the government’s sudden change in the Health Ministry’s policy to cancel the requirement for a 14-day quarantine of those who enter Peninsular Malaysia from Sabah, which he said showed a “double-standard” treatment for pro-government Sabah MPs and reflected the current government’s need for votes in favour of Budget 2021.
“Why is this policy not in force? This is because the vote of these MPs is necessary for the government to have the Budget approved. Every act and change in policy is made as if merely changing clothes for political interests.
“Those who become victims are the public. When the public does not follow rules, they will be fined and punished. If an MP on the government’s side does it, rules are changed and they are free from punishment,” he said.
Dr Mahathir’s remarks comes just after Sabah’s Keningau MP Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan attracted controversy over his alleged breach of a 14-day quarantine by attending the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, while the Health Ministry yesterday also seemingly coincidentally reversed its 14-day quarantine policy for Sabah returnees to Peninsular Malaysia. Kitingan later said he had not breached the quarantine but was allowed early release from quarantine.
In the same blog post, Dr Mahathir also went on to explain what would happen if Budget 2021 is voted down, stating that it would be prove that the government of day has lost its legitimacy to govern as it does not have sufficient majority to have the Budget passed and that the prime minister would resign if he is someone with dignity.
Dr Mahathir said the prime minister who has stepped down could ordinarily advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament to enable elections to be held, but said that the current situation is extraordinary due to the Covid-19 pandemic and that the recent experience of the Sabah state elections shows that holding a general elections would not be a choice now.
Dr Mahathir said the alternative process to be considered is to give a chance for Parliament to determine who among the MPs have majority support, with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to pick such an MP to be prime minister if satisfied that such an MP has majority support.
Dr Mahathir said the new prime minister could then form a new government and serve until the end of term and when the 15th general elections is due to be held, arguing that this would ensure that the new government has legitimacy instead of being questioned like the current government labelled as an alleged “backdoor government”.
“After the new government is formed, then this government can choose to table a new Budget or take the Budget which has been rejected and make the amendments that have been requested previously.
“All this can be done in a special Parliament meeting and will not take a very long time,” he said, before concluding that he would be rejecting the Budget 2021 proposed by the current government.