The pre-election manifesto is not a bible that has to be followed and abided by religiously, according to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Dr Mahathir Mohamad today insisted that the appointment letter for Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof as the new Dewan Rakyat speaker had been prepared earlier, adding that the walkout by opposition MPs at the Parliament this morning was a “sandiwara” (play acting).
Commenting on the decision to name a non-parliamentarian as the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat as promised in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto, the Prime Minister said certain items included in the document might not be practical to be carried out. “Please remember manifesto is not a bible. It’s a guide. Sometimes we can do things, sometimes we find that we cannot. So we need to be practical-minded. And I think the public would prefer someone who is not related to any party,” he told reporters after the swearing in ceremony of MPs in Parliament, here, today. Commenting on claims by the opposition that the appointment of the speaker was done illegally as the name was not submitted 14 days earlier, Mahathir said those claims were false. “There was no backdate on the speaker’s appointment. The letter to notify the parliament has been prepared much earlier, so when I signed the letter, I merely put the date on it,” he said.
He questioned criticism by Umno and other opposition MPs who claimed that Ariff’s appointment was not according to procedure, and that Parliament had not been served a two-week notice as required. “For the first time, the ex-prime minister walks out. So we know what it means when somebody walks out,” said Mahathir, adding that their action was only a “sandiwara”. MPs including former prime minister Najib Razak and current Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had earlier walked out of the Dewan Rakyat in protest, saying Ariff’s appointment was not in accordance with the standing orders. Only Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and Kimanis MP Anifah Aman remained in the Dewan. Khairy Jamaluddin defended his decision to remain in the Dewan Rakyat after opposition MPs walked out in protest over the new speaker, saying any objections on the appointment should have done when the sitting convenes.
“Perhaps the objections could have been done when the sitting officially begins or during debates or through a standing order. “For me, it is better for us to respect the event today,” the Rembau MP told reporters, referring to the swearing-in ceremony. The former youth and sports minister said he did not want to do anything that could tarnish BN’s image. Opposition MPs from Barisan Nasional and PAS walked out of the Dewan Rakyat in protest over former Court of Appeal judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof’s appointment as the new speaker. They said they were dissatisfied with the choice of candidate, claiming it did not follow the standing orders. Apart from Khairy, Kimanis MP and former foreign affairs minister Anifah Aman also stayed put. When asked if he was afraid of the possible repercussions from his decision, Khairy said “ I made a decision that is to respect the swearing-in.” Ariff was sworn in this morning as the new speaker. The motion for his appointment was tabled by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and seconded by Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Meanwhile, the government has spent an estimated RM1.384 billion between May 10 and July 16 to stabilise RON95 petrol prices, according to PKR vice-president Mohd Rafizi Ramli in his blog post today. This amounts to a subsidy of between 17 sen per litre and 30 sen per litre to maintain the price at RM2.20 per litre, he said. Otherwise, he said the weekly RON95 prices would have increased for six weeks and fell for five weeks in the weeks since the general election on May 9, going as high as RM2.50 per litre. The price for this week would have been RM2.44 this week without the subsidy, he said, using publicly available data for his estimates. He added that government revenue had also increased by RM1.77 billion over the same 67-day period.
This is due to crude oil prices increasing above the US$50 per barrel assumption used to formulate the 2018 budget, leads to increased royalty, tax, duty and other collections. The current Brent Crude Oil price is US$73.10 per barrel. Rafizi said this means that 78 percent of the extra government earnings from increased crude oil prices have been returned to the people. “I am satisfied because the Pakatan Harapan administration has held on to its pro-rakyat economic policies that we have championed for many years. I did not oppose the Harapan administration on the matter of fuel subsidies because the subsidies returned to the people is above what had been promised in Harapan’s manifesto. I thought Umno and PAS leaders would shut up because they know Harapan’s performance in stabilising fuel prices is better than what we ourselves have expected,” said Rafizi.
“The problem is that it is not easy to school Umno and PAS supporters who are obsessed with imagined manifesto promises,” he said. Rafizi also said he had written the blog post because Umno and PAS supporters had been pressuring him to “oppose” the Harapan-led government for supposedly failing to deliver on its promise to reduce fuel prices. He said he finds amusing because it meant that the opposition parties are not confident in their ability to champion the people’s welfare. In addition, he said Harapan did not promise to set fuel prices at either RM1.50 per litre or RM1.80 per litre as alleged. He said the RM1.50 per litre was the promise for the 13th general election campaign, whereas the RM1.80 per litre figure came from an example he had used when crude oil prices were hovering between US$45 and US$55 per barrel.
Instead, Harapan had merely promised it its 14th general election manifesto to provide fuel subsidies to those using motorcycles with engine capacities below 125 cubic centimetres, and cars with engine capacities below 1,300 cubic centimetres. Fuel prices had been placed under a managed float since December 2014 following the withdrawal of government subsidies, until it was frozen in the weeks leading up to the 14th general election. The Harapan-led government maintained the freeze for RON95 and diesel prices after it took power on May 9th, which retailed at RM2.18 per litre. RON97 prices, meanwhile, returned to a managed float where prices are revised weekly.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had said that the government had set aside RM3 billion to maintain the RON95 and diesel prices for the rest of the year.