By Nikkhil Singh
The role of the Opposition in a democracy is to oppose. This is how a system of check and balance is maintained in a parliamentary system. But what happened at the Dewan Rakyat last week when there were little opposition during the Budget 2021 vote?
To describe the Opposition as failing to oppose would belittle the landslide support for the Perikatan Nasional administration at the Dewan Rakyat, as only 13 out of the 220 MPs present stood up against the overwhelming voice vote.
So why did the Opposition meekly submit? So far, what has been reported is that at the final hour, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim pulled the plug on the Pakatan Harapan’s rejection of the budget.
What happened to all his fiery rhetoric?
It took Anthony Loke, the DAP party whip, to apologise on behalf of the Opposition bloc. And he admitted that Pakatan had no choice but to offer up its unconditional support because the alternative was not politically acceptable any more in the context of the nation’s desperate fight against COVID-19.
He explained that if Pakatan had voted against the Budget, the Opposition would have been attacked for going against the advise of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, denying civil servants their salaries and more critically, denying aid to the B40 as well as farmers and fishermen.
Whilst this would have been likely, Pakatan was already attacked for this beforehand. If what Loke said was true, and if this was the view of the Opposition – then why was the call to vote to pass the Budget only made with minutes to spare?
If the story we are being sold is true, then Pakatan could have stood up for block voting with the steadfast opposing 13 and then simply abstained during the vote.
The Budget would have still passes unopposed but the lack of support would have been welcomed as a symbolic gesture.
This lack of unity is the very reason why Pakatan’s time in power only lasted 22 months. And once again, Anwar proves he is his own worst enemy – flip-flopping and indecisive when it really matters.
Whilst I hoped that Budget 2021 would pass with some concessions, the Opposition has let us down again – adding insult to injury by actually supporting the PN block instead of symbolically abstaining.
Before the passing of Budget 2021, Opposition leaders came out with multiple demands, forcing PN to make key concessions.
However, when it came time to be really counted, no one from the Opposition block stood with the 13 MPs.
History will judge them and perhaps voters will remember this. The irony is that when you don’t stand, you stand for nothing.- Nov 29, 2020.