The day BN almost fell

Shah A Dadameah, Malaysian Mirror 

DECEMBER 14, 2009 saw the ruling coalition virtually at the edge of collapse!

IT must have been the worst nightmare for the Barisan Nasional since the ‘tsunami’ of March 2008, when its two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat was sliced by the combined political will of the DAP, PKR and PAS.
The national Budget – the first by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his eight-month old administration – scraped through by the skin of its teeth, sending nerve-wrecking waves across the House.
Also known as the Supply Bill 2010, it was passed with a narrow 66-63 vote margin.
The Barisan camp must have said a silent prayer of thanks to the Almighty that not all of the 82 Pakatan Rakyat MPs were in the House during the voting.
On the side of the ruling party, 71 were absent for the crucial ‘Budget crunch.’  That is surely a big number of absentees, though it may not be fair to say that all of them had ponteng.

On ‘official’ duty?
Granted that some of the ministers and deputy ministers were on official duty somewhere or, like Bung Mokhtar Radin, had sought leave to attend to a domestic problem.
But it is hard to understand that the others – comprising ministers, deputy ministers and former ministers – had failed to see the urgency of voting for their own future even if they do not really care about what the Budget holds.
All that talk about the Barisan wanting to win back the hearts and minds of the people…well, it’s all talk!
So much has collapsed around them but instead of picking up the bits and pieces they are just throttling over the debris.
Media reports variedly described the three-vote majority as ‘a near miss’ , ‘heart stopping moment’, ‘narrow passage’ and ‘measly’, among others;  but the ghastly message that sank in the Barisan camp was: had the Budget not been passed, it would have meant ‘curtains down’ for the coalition.
In other words, it would have been the end of a dominance of more than five decades by the ruling party, starting with the Alliance in 1957 and continuing through with the Barisan since 1972.
It is a convention in parliamentary democracies that if a national Budget is not passed, it is as a good as a vote of no confidence in the ruling coalition.
It was only when Najib, who is also Finance Minister I and Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat showed up that support for the bill tilted in favour of the ruling coalition, about half-an-hour before midnight!
The PM, who was reportedly at a Chinese secondary school dinner promoting the use of Mandarin among non-Chinese students, had to rush back to Parliament when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz sent out a distress call at about 8pm.

The presence of the large number of opposition MPs, including Oppo sition Leader Anwar Ibra him, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, and PAS president Hadi Awang  led Nazri to send the SOS to Najib.

‘Taking things for granted’

“Let it be a lesson,” Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia told both sides of the House, after the vote count.

He chided the Barisan side for ‘taking things for granted’ while, to the Opposition, he questioned why they voted against the national Budget.

“What can you achieve with that? Do you want a fresh election?” he asked, but he was not amused.

It was the second time that MPs passed a Bill in such manner. In June, the DNA Bill was passed by a razor thin 48-47 majority.

This year alone, the Opposition had called for bloc division vote several times but these had involved amendments to Bills and to approve motions.
But such a move had never been made on the Supply Bill, which sees to the Government’s expenditure next year.
Responding to the close call, Anwar said: “It is good as it will force the Barisan to respect the House.”
Needless to say, the high rate of absenteeism among Barisan MPs – who apparently no longer fear the spectre of March 2008 – is a big disappointment to those who voted them into the House and, in general, to all Malaysians.
While they can heave a sigh of relief that their counterparts from the DAP, PKR and PAS had failed to take advantage of the Barisan’s weakness of being nonchalant when it matters most, the horrifying 48% attendance record should be seen as a grave failure of the ruling party!
The 78% attendance of the Pakatan bench, on the other hand, is something they can crow about and a sure bolster of confidence to give the Barisan another good spanking at the next general election.
Now, how is Najib and company going to explain the big sounding KPIs and NKRAs to the people, when a much-needed explanation now is why their ministers had nearly caused the downfall of his administration?
Maybe, the Barisan MPs had not thought of the devastating effects that a changeover of administration could affect the nation.
Effects of changeover
For instance, the Opposition camp is already painting a picture of a Malaysia with two or three deputy prime ministers (taking a cue from the DAP-led Penang government.)

Talking about a near miss for the Barisan, Anwar must have also felt that he had missed a fat chance to take over the reins of power from Najib and become the prime minister that his followers want him to be.
Yes, indeed! That could have happened.
Ironically, Finance Minister II Husni Hanadzlah, commenting on the matter in Ipoh a few days later, chided the Pakatan opposition for voting against the Budget.
“They do not think of the bigger picture nor do they love the country,” he reportedly said.
He added: “They could have destroyed the nation for their own political mileage by voting against the Budget.” 
The Yang Berhormat and his colleagues should know there is no point blaming the Pakatan MPs for not supporting the Budget. Moreover, Husni was among the absentees.

The Barisan has forgotten that the Pakatan has its own shadow Cabinet and an ‘alternative Budget’ that they are raring to carry out, given half the chance.

Like Pandikar Amin said, just take a lesson from this near fiasco. 

The following were the absentee Cabinet members on that day:
Husni Hanadzlah (Finance II), Nor Yackop (Minister in PM’s Department), Bernard Dompok (Plantation Industries and Commodities), Hishamuddin Hussein (Home), Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (Defence), Shafie Apdal (Rural and Regional Development),  Maximus Ongkili (Science, Technology and Innovation), Douglas Uggah (Natural Resources and Environment).
Khaled Nordin (Higher Education), Dr Rais Yatim (Information, Culture and Communications), Mustapa Mohamed (International Trade and Industry), Kong Cho Ha (Housing and Local Government), Shabery Cheek (Youth and Sports), Shaziman Mansor (Works), Noh Omar (Agiculture and Agro-based Industry), S Subramaniam (Human Resources), Ng Yen Yen (Tourism) and Anifah Aman (ForeignAffairs)
The Deputy Ministers who were absent:
Jacob Dungau (Internatiional Trade and Industry), Puad Zarkashi (Education),Lajim Ukim (Transport), SK Devamany (Prime Minister’s Department), Mukhriz Mahathir (International Trade and Industry), Lee Chee Leong (Foreign Affairs), Hou Kok Chung (Higher Education), Hamzah Zainuddin (Plantation Industries and Commodities), Razali Ibrahim (Youth and Sports), Rosnah Shirlin (Health), Ahmad Maslan(Prime Minister’s Department) and Noriah Kasnon (Energy, Green Technology and Water).
MPs (non-Cabinet members) who were absent:
Fong Chang Onn (Alor Gajah), Tiong King Sing (Bintulu), Mohamed Sirat (Bukit Katil), Edmond Chong (Bukit Sapai), Nancy Shukri (Batang Sadong), Tan Ah Eng (Gelang Patah), Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Gua Musang), Billy Abit (Hulu Rajang), Abdul Wahab (Igan), Tengku Azlan (Jerantut), Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Kepala  Batas), Rafidah Aziz ( Kuala Kangsar), Ghapur Salleh (Kalabakan), Radzi Sheikh Ahmad (Kangar), Joseph Pairin (Keningau), Bung Mokhtar Radin (Kinabatangan), Syed Hamid Albar (Kota Tinggi), Ong Ka Ting (Kulai), Tiong Thai King (Lanang), Henry Sum Agong (Lawas).
Juslie Ajirol (Libaran), James Dawos (Mamboing), Tiki Lafe (Mas Gading), Leo Michael Toyad (Mukah), Tajuddin Ramli ( Pasir Salak), Azmi Khalid (Padang Besar), Azalina Othman ( Pengerang), Nurjazlan Mohamed ( Pulai), Makus Mojigoh (Putatan), Tengku Adnan (Putrajaya), Khairy Jamaludin (Remnbau), Jamaluddin Jarjis (Rompin), Richard Riot (Seria), Zulhasnan (Setiawangsa), Ahmad Lai Bujang (Sibuti), Teng Boon Soon (Tebrau), Idris Haron (Tanjung Batu), Ong Ka Chuan (Tanjung Malim), Norah Rahman (Tanjung Manis)and Mujilip Bumburing (Tuaran).