KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim went on record today to assert Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) disagreement with the government’s move to rescind its pledge to hold a confidence vote against the newly-appointed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Anwar was the first to be given the floor in Parliament to debate the royal address as Opposition Leader.
In his speech, the Port Dickson MP voiced his protest against the decision, in which he said calling off the vote was never part of the negotiations that led to the signing of a historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) yesterday.
Still, he said the debate around the new government’s legitimacy does not imply the withdrawal of support against efforts to put the country back on the recovery path and rein in the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This MoU has triggered polemics (outside) the House, maybe because the document is not yet accessible to many a confidence and supply (agreement) is an effort to legitimise and support the (upcoming) Budget, but this is not what was agreed on,” Anwar said.
“In this document, we never said we would vote for (the government) should there be a vote of confidence, because we had proposed from the very start in a meeting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the deputy Agong and the main eight political parties is that a confidence vote be held,” he added.
“And everyone agreed, not a single person disagreed.”
Ismail Sabri called off the confidence vote initially planned for the current sitting despite the Agong’s decree, backed by most Opposition MPs, that his majority must be tested in the Lower House.
The decision was only made public by de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Wan Tuanku Jaafar last week, who said the Agong had given his consent.
Istana Negara did not issue a statement to clarify the matter.
Yesterday, the newly installed government inked an agreement with the main Opposition coalition pledging a political ceasefire and bipartisan cooperation to put the pandemic-hit economy back on the path to recovery.
The MoU, which some observers have called unprecedented, solicited mixed reactions but was mostly welcomed by both sides of the Lower House.
At today’s sitting, Anwar dedicated a lengthy explanation to debunk claims that the agreement was a compromise that would pacify the Opposition’s check-and-balance role.
It is understood that PH demanded concessions that will see greater representation in policy formulation and crucial reforms under the MoU, in return for its support.
But the agreement does not entail guaranteed support of the Budget 2022 vote and other related supply Bills.
Anwar explained that PH has the discretionary right to support or abstain during the Budget and supply Bills vote.
Support for the Budget, the Port Dickson MP said, will hinge on the inclusion of Opposition lawmakers in drafting Budget 2022 and other Budget-related Bills.
Similarly, the Opposition coalition will abstain or support any Bill or motion that can be construed as a vote of confidence, on the condition that it is mutually negotiated and agreed in principle.
“We want to avoid (such a situation) but on the condition that the draft of Bills is negotiated and agreed upon together,” Anwar said.