Speaker slams opposition in narrow Budget vote

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia today criticised the Pakatan Rakyat for taking advantage of absent Barisan Nasional lawmakers, and trying to defeat the Budget 2010 last night.

Pandikar called it dishonourable to catch the government with “their pants down” during the third and final reading of the budget proposals before it goes to the Senate.

“The opposition should not have taken advantage of the situation when there weren’t enough BN MPs,” he said when commenting on the narrow 66-63 approval for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s first Budget as prime minister.

“It should not be a question of catching the government with their pants down because that would not be a gentlemanly and honourable kind of thing,” Pandikar explained to reporters in his chambers here.

He added that Parliament is a gentlemen’s club for both the opposition and the government to debate questions of national interest.

Pandikar also stressed that Barisan Nasional lawmakers should not take their parliamentary majority for granted.

“For the BN they must not take [their majority] for granted and in any sitting for that matter.

“But for all parliamentarians, on both sides of the divide, when they want to talk then they will attend. When there is something of particular interests they want to bring up, then they will be there. If there is nothing that interests them, then they will not be there,” he added.

Najib and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat saved Barisan Nasional the blushes when they turned up to tilt support to the ruling coalition who lost its customary two-third parliamentary majority in Election 2008.

Najib had to rush from a dinner, organised by Cheong Hwa Private Secondary School, and changed his batik shirt before entering the Parliament.

It is understood that this is the first time that the national budget was approved with such a narrow margin. A rejection would have negative implications for the Barisan Nasional government which has been in power since independence in 1957, when it was known as the Alliance.

In a parliamentary democracy, a rejected budget is seen as a no-confidence vote towards the ruling government and indirectly opens the way for the formation of a new government.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the top leadership of the rival blocs have directed strict action to be taken against their lawmakers who were missing in last night’s vote.

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