KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Opposition parliamentarians continued pressing Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun today to rule on Datuk Shabudin Yahaya (PN-Tasek Gelugor) who counted an absent lawmaker during a division of Parliament yesterday.
The group also rejected Shabudin’s explanation that he made an honest mistake by including Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (BN-Padang Rengas) when the latter was not present in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
They said the Speaker and his deputies should not “hide behind” the Standing Orders and must make an immediate ruling in the lower House.
“We feel disappointed that the decision made today seemed like an attempt to deflect or deny us (MPs) an immediate answer, and to instead hide behind procedures where [Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon’ asked for us to channel our complaints by writing under Standing Order 43, although he was already aware of the matter.
“There was no apology from Tasek Gelugor who admitted his mistake and he is an experienced MP who is not in the Dewan for his first time.
“So, what he did was deliberate because time had been adjusted for MPs to come into Dewan as late as possible to vote for the Bill,” said Noor Amin Ahmad (PH-Kangar) during a press conference held at Parliament today.
This morning, Rashid informed the Dewan Rakyat that a correction has been made to the result of the bloc vote on the Finance Ministry’s allocations under Budget 2021 yesterday, which changed those voting for this from 107 to 106.
Shahbudin, as MP in charge of vote counting for Bloc C, informed the Speaker earlier that he mistakenly counted Nazri Abdul Aziz in the approving side of yesterday’s division when the latter was not present.
Rashid concurrently corrected the number of absent parliamentarians from 18 to 19.
Noor Amin asserted that the same miscounting could have happened in an earlier division to decide allocations for the Prime Minister’s Department yesterday, which the Opposition also lost.
He said the accuracy of bloc vote was especially because the government’s majority in Parliament was marginal and arguably inconclusive.
“And we saw that the counting that was announced is different compared to our numbers.
“I raised the matter as previously, there were no clear ruling made on this — as what the Deputy Speaker revealed, a miscounting had happened previously — and this shows that there are weaknesses and flaws in bloc voting in the Dewan.
“We demand an explanation from the Speaker, especially on how the process could be rectified as this could happen again in the future again, and not only would MPs lose confidence in the Dewan, but definitely people out there too,” said Noor Amin.
Fuziah Salleh (PH-Kuantan), who earlier cited Standing Order 47 (1) and 47 (2), said these clearly stipulated that a vote counter must speak personally to each MP during a division before noting down the MP’s decision on a vote.
“So what Tasek Gelugor did is obviously against the Standing Order,” she said.
Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) said the voting must be like an election, requiring both polling and counting agents to protect against “phantom voting”.
However, he said there was neither role available to safeguard divisions at the moment.
“We urge the Dewan Speaker to consider this option as he was previously the Election Commission chief; he should do something to protect the integrity of the Dewan Rakyat,” said Sim.
Muda’s Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Ind-Muar) joined the call for reforms to bloc voting and argued that Shabudin’s claim lacked credibility.
“You don’t need math experts to see who was in the Dewan and how could anyone overlook a political figure like Nazri?
“if the mistake was done, we not only want to ask how improvements can be made but there should be a recount called as this is not a small mistake and drastic measures be taken, otherwise the Parliament will be disputed (in the future),” he said.
When asked to explain how the Opposition was aware of Nazri’s absence, Noor Amin said they practised “man marking”, which was sports terminology for when a person in a team is assigned to monitor another on the rival side.
Yesterday the Opposition failed to block the Ministry of Finance’s expenditure under Budget 2021 that was approved with 107 votes for and 95 against.
It was the second division the Opposition lost yesterday.
Rashid, who was presiding over the matter then, had agreed to call for a division vote when nearly all Opposition MPs stood up requesting one because the outcome of the earlier voice vote was unclear.
However just before voting started Azhar stepped back into the House to oversee the process, which enabled Rashid, who is also Batu Pahat MP, to vote.
Azhar then told the Dewak Rakyat that no lawmakers would be allowed to enter the House once voting begins.
The RM21 billion allocation for the Ministry of Finance under Budget 2021 was then passed.