MALAYSIA — Chaos erupted in Malaysia’s Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) on Monday morning (3 April) as almost all Members of Parliament from opposition coalition, Perikatan National (PN) walked out of the chamber.
They were protesting against Deputy Speaker Alice Lau, who rejected their request to debate a motion regarding the targeted withdrawal of funds from the Employee Provident Fund (EPF).
The motion was presented by PN MP Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal.
He said the motion he submitted to the Speaker Datuk Johari Abdul last Friday, was rejected on the grounds that the issue had already been explained by the Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and his deputy, before this.
“However, I have received many views from the public that the explanations and comments of both ministers and deputy ministers recently were not satisfactory to them.”
The Machang MP urged the deputy Speaker to allow the motion to be discussed before the end of the session on Monday.
“Hopefully, it will be considered so that it can bring the interests of the public who really need this targeted withdrawal from the EPF,” he said.
However, Deputy Speaker Alice Lau Kiong said that the decision had been made by Johari and she could not overturn it.
“According to Regulation 43, the Speaker’s decision is final. If you are not satisfied, please submit another motion,” she said.
However, Alice’s decision prompted some PN MPs to stand up and Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim (PN-Arau) questioned the decision because there was no more time to discuss the motion in this session.
Alice remained firm with her decision, causing PN MPs to leave the chamber in protest.
Their action only lasted for about 15 minutes, after which the parliament members returned to participate in the debate on the Financial Bill 2023.
Malaysia’s opposition has been advocating to ease the burden on the grassroots.
Wan Fayhsal, who also serves as the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Youth chief, took to Facebook to express his frustration after his question in parliament went unanswered by Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday (30 March).
He subsequently submitted an urgent motion requesting a debate on the matter.
“The public is increasingly desperate, and the number of groups of people who cannot afford the cost of living at this time is increasing. This proposal also involves the interests of many, as there are various reactions and complaints that can be seen through social media and public speeches regarding this matter, ” Wan Fayhsal’s motion read.
“Therefore, I feel that this issue needs to be expedited next week as there are only two days left before this session of the Dewan Rakyat ends,” he said via Facebook on Friday.
However, Anwar Ibrahim cautioned that such withdrawals could severely jeopardize people’s retirement funds in the future, as well as EPF’s new investment opportunities and profit-generation for dividend payments to contributors.
He revealed in February 2023 that 71% of EPF active contributors aged 55 and below do not have enough funds to rise above the poverty level, primarily due to the four special withdrawals approved during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The current sitting of Malaysia’s Parliament is scheduled to end on Wednesday (5 April).
Initially, it was supposed to conclude on 30 March with the main focus being on debating the revised Budget 2023 worth RM386.1 billion. However, the sitting was extended to allow for the consideration and decision-making of several legislative bills and government businesses.
During Muhyiddin Yassin’s tenure as Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Perikatan Nasional (PN)-led government approved the i-Sinar withdrawal scheme from the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) in 2020, which allowed EPF contributors to withdraw up to RM10,000 from their Account 1.
The scheme was implemented to provide financial assistance to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.