Pandemonium in Dewan as Guan Eng and Najib trade barbs on country’s debts

The shouting match between Lim and Najib began when the finance minister brought up the issue of 1MDB’s debts, which he said were “hidden”.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pandemonium broke out in the Dewan Rakyat today following arguments between former prime minister Najib Razak and Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, during Lim’s winding-up speech on the royal address.

Lim (PH-Bagan) was asked to comment on the latest Bank Negara Malaysia statistics that showed the national debt had increased.

The shouting match began when Lim brought up the issue of 1MDB’s debts, which he said were “hidden”.

Most from the opposition bench engaged in a shouting match with those in the government bench on whether the debts were part of the official figures or not.

Lim said: “1MDB is the biggest scandal in the world,” which was followed by sniggers from the opposition. He added that Najib (BN-Pekan) should volunteer to help the government pay off its debts.

Lim insisted Najib had caused the financial state of the country to worsen (“runcing”), which led to more shouting. Najib then interrupted to say the country’s deficit had decreased every year when he was prime minister and finance minister

As the shouting match continued, Tony Pua (PH-Damansara) was heard yelling that the country’s debts were “hidden”.

The shouting intensified, with Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming desperately calling for calm.

Opposition MPs claimed Pua had broken the house rules by speaking out of turn. They also subsequently trained their guns on Lim by bringing up the Penang undersea tunnel controversy.

Lim had by this point also claimed the Najib administration approved construction of a consulate building abroad through direct negotiations. Opposition MPs asked if the tunnel project was done in a similar manner.

Lim claimed it was Najib himself who decided to sell the consulate building in Hong Kong. He offered to give him the offer letter and receipts issued.

He also said this was done before the May 9, 2018 general election at a price of RM1.1 billion, to which Najib did not respond.

Later, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (PH-Tanjong) asked Lim: “Do you agree that any parties who say the tunnel project was not done via open tender are stupid (bodoh)?” to which Lim, while laughing, said it was.

This led to yet another shouting match in the house. Nga called out Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak) and rapped him for shouting, saying Chow was not referring to anyone. Only those who were identified by name as being “stupid” should be offended, he added.

When Lim later asked Najib to reply to his comments about the direct tender project, he refused to answer, only getting up to say, “Give us an answer on the tunnel issue”. He did not reply when asked again.

Government MPs questioned Najib over this, asking if this meant he agreed with what Lim alleged.

The opposition bench then brought up more issues linked to Lim, such as the purchase of a bungalow at far below the market price.

Nga ruled that no apology or retraction was needed as Chow was not addressing anyone in particular in the house. This was met with dismay by opposition MPs.

Not all agreed. On two occasions, Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) was heard saying that those who do not conduct the Dewan Rakyat session fairly were “bodoh”.

For the rest of the afternoon, the word “bodoh” was used by both sides while the ministers were winding up their speeches.

Dewan Rakyat speaker Mohamad Arif Md Yusof, who was presiding over the session, made a ruling to forbid the word after Shahidan used “bodoh” once more during the proceedings.

After this, Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad, who was about to start his speech, promised he would not use “bodoh” any more. He said he might instead use the words “bukan cerdik” (not intelligent).