KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's opposition MPs walked out of Parliament on Monday (Dec 14) after three MPs currently undergoing home quarantine were allowed to participate in a Budget vote.
The three MPs - Health Minister Adham Baba and Mr M. Saravanan from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and Mr P. Prabakaran from the opposition Pakatan Harapan - had turned up in Parliament wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Clad in full white aprons, along with blue shower caps and visors, they were seated on the highest floor of the House, away from all other MPs.
A protest by opposition MPs against Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun's decision to let the trio in erupted into a shouting match.
"What reasons are there for these MPs to be allowed to be present in Parliament when they have been categorised as close contacts (of Covid-19 positive cases)?" Kuala Langat MP Xavier Jayakumar from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) asked Datuk Azhar, as reported by The Malay Mail.
In reply, Mr Azhar said he was making an exception this time because rather than having a rogue MP who breaks quarantine rules in the House, "it is better that I regulate this voting". He is believed to be referring to Batu MP P. Prabakaran, who attended Parliament to vote on another Budget Bill last Thursday (Dec 10) despite being ordered to stay at home.
A majority of the opposition MPs from PKR and Democratic Action Party (DAP) walked out of the bloc voting on Monday in defiance.
Monday's Bill on the budget for the Federal Territories Ministry was subsequently passed with 110 MPs voted in favour, seven opposed, 31 abstained and 72 absent.
The budget allocations for two more ministries - Defence and Home Affairs - are scheduled to be debated and passed in Parliament at the committee stage on Monday. Committee stage debates for Budget 2021 will take place until Tuesday (Dec 15).
Pictures of the three MPs clad in full PPEs were shared by Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong on Facebook on Monday.
"It's a new norm in the Dewan Rakyat! The three had requested permission from the health director-general to attend the voting session in Parliament," Mr Wee said.
Article 62 of the Constitution states that "members absent from a House shall not be allowed to vote".
On Saturday, the Speaker's Office sent a letter to all MPs stating that those who wanted to take part in the bloc voting of Budget 2021 must get approval from the health director-general.