MPs ask if Tengku Zafrul has quit after govt's EPF U-turn

Opposition MPs grill ministers in Dewan Rakyat today about the absence of Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, March 17, 2022.

OPPOSITION MPs asked if Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had resigned, after he failed to show up to Parliament to table a series of bills today, leaving the duty to Deputy Finance Minister I Mohd Shahar Abdullah.

Zafrul had said in an interview with Malay-language daily Sinar Harian in January he would quit rather than compromise on actions he believes are incorrect, such as the government facilitating contributors withdrawing their EPF money.

Yesterday, in a reversal of previous policy, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that contributors would indeed be allowed to withdraw another RM10,000 from their savings to help tide them over as the country continues to weather the economic impact of Covid-19.

It is understood that Ismail was responding to pressure from within Umno to allow further withdrawals.

Against this backdrop, it was not surprising when questions were asked in the House with Zafrul absent and thus unable to take questions during Minister’s Question Time or table four bills for first reading.

His absence was initially raised during question time when he was supposed to answer questions on debts incurred as a result of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd financial crisis.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s department in charge of religion Idris Ahmad attempted to reply on behalf of Zafrul but Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon said he could not.

Shahar tabled four bills for first reading, including the supplementary supply (2021) bill 2022.

Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena-PH) then inquired about the minister’s whereabouts.

“He had said previously that if the government allows the one-off Employees Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawal, he is willing to step down.

“Yesterday the prime minister made the announcement, so does Tengku Zafrul’s absence today mean he has resigned?”

If Tengku Zafrul had indeed resigned, Mahfuz said Shahar’s filing would be null and void because there was no minister.

M. Kula Segaran (Ipoh Barat-PH) also asked the same question, while asking the chair to allow Shahar to reply to the queries from the opposition ranks.

Despite numerous demands, Rashid stood firm in his decision that the bill may be tabled by the deputy minister in the absence of a minister.

“Would you like to argue?” You are, in my opinion, interfering with today’s procedures,” Rashid said, as he ordered Kula to sit.

Sahar then tabled the four bills. – March 17, 2022.

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