The Parliament session today (17 March) was briefly interrupted after MPs questioned the absence of the Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz and whether he has resigned from his position.
This was raised during the ministerial question time, where Tengku Zafrul was supposed to respond to the queries on the amount that has been paid by the government for debts related to 1MDB and SRC International.
As the session requires the physical presence of the minister and cannot be replaced by his deputy, the question had to be skipped. A written reply of the minister’s answer was later provided to the media.
Later on in the session, during the government’s motion and bills, Deputy Finance Minister I Mohd Shahar Abdullah (Paya Besar-BN) tabled four bills for the first reading, including a vital Supplementary Supply (2021) Bill 2022.
This time, Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar asked about Tengku Zafrul’s whereabouts and sought confirmation if he had resigned.
“He had said before 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?” he said.
During an interview with Sinar Premium in January, the finance minister said he would rather resign than compromise on decisions that he feels are wrong, including further withdrawal of EPF funds.
Yesterday (16 March), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has announced that the government had agreed to allow another round of EPF withdrawal of RM10,000 to help those affected by to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mahfuz then pointed out that if it is true that Tengku Zafrul has resigned as the finance minister, Shahar’s tabling of today’s bills on behalf of the minister would have been invalid, as there was no minister.
Later that evening, Tengku Zafrul had on his Facebook page denied the claims of his resignation as the finance minister. He explained that his absence is due to some private matters which he had to attend to himself.
He then apologised to the Parliament for his absence and not being able to answer the ministerial questions.