KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian government on Wednesday (March 31) controversially amended the country’s emergency law to allow fresh spending without getting approval from lawmakers in Parliament or the state assemblies.
The Perikatan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin can now tap government funds as long as it has been okayed by the Finance Ministry (Treasury), under an amendment to the Emergency Ordinance.
At the state level, extra allocations can be disbursed in the 13 states after being approved by just the states’ Menteris Besar and chief ministers.
The amendment was inserted as “Section 10” in the Emergency Ordinance 2021, The Star daily reported on Wednesday.
Opposition leaders decried the surprise move.
Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the government’s executive branch has “guillotined” Parliament and can now issue a supplementary budget without the people’s approval.
“This underscores why Parliament is important and should be open for business. There is no reason not to,” Mr Lim told Malaysiakini news site.
The Muhyiddin administration on Jan 11, following approval from the Malaysian King, declared a state of emergency until Aug 1, with the government saying that this will help it tame the coronavirus pandemic.
Neither the federal Parliament nor any of the state assemblies has been allowed to convene during the state of emergency from Jan 11.
The new financial provision was published on the Attorney-General’s Chambers website on Wednesday. It stated that the provision was promulgated by the King last Thursday, The Star said.
The federal gazette said, among other things, that “for so long as the emergency is in force, any such expenditure or withdrawal from the federal consolidated fund or the consolidated fund of a state may be made with the approval of the Treasury or the Menteri Besar or chief minister of a state”.
Said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim: “I strongly oppose this law. I believe it is unethical and irresponsible. I am concerned about the impact on the nation’s reputation and the further erosion of confidence in our economy.”
He said there was no need to add this “extraordinary fiduciary powers at this time”.
“The 2021 budget has been passed less than four months ago, which allocated adequate spending for Covid-19 response. Any valid additional spending would be approved in Parliament by a majority and would likely gain bipartisan support if it was deemed appropriate,” he said in a statement.
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