KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — In an unprecedented move, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is taking two independent MPs to the United States next week, while ordering fellow Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers to stay behind and ensure all government bills are approved in the current parliamentary sitting.
Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim and Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP Zulkifli Noordin — both former PKR lawmakers — will be in Washington as part of the Malaysia-United States Caucus to be launched by the prime minister next Wednesday.
Najib is taking no chances after the near-defeat of the Budget 2010 proposals last December in the Dewan Rakyat where BN holds a simple majority of 137 MPs over Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) 78 lawmakers.
“Some of us were initially on the Washington trip but Najib wants us to stay back and come to Parliament everyday,” a BN MP told The Malaysian Insider in Parliament last night.
A strong BN bench in Parliament yesterday saw them defeating a surprise PR motion to refer Pasir Salak MP Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman to the Rights and Privileges Committee after he claimed DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had sold state secrets to Singapore.
But BN used its superior numbers to refer Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar to the same committee for linking Umno to the government’s public relations consultancy APCO — which PR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had linked to a former Israeli regime.
The highly-charged parliamentary sitting has forced BN to ensure that all its MPs, including veterans such as former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, turn up for crucial votes to approve all government bills and supplementary supply bills.
But Najib will still have two BN MPs — Information Minsiter Datuk Seri Rais Yatim and the country’s Malaysian ambassador to the US, Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis — with him in his short US trip. Rais is deputising for Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman who is indisposed.
Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar confirmed the short list of MPs joining Najib for the US trip, held just a year after the prime minister completed his first year in office.
“We have no further information as we didn’t arrange the trip. But I know Datuk Seri Rais will join the two MPs Zulkifli Noordin and Datuk Zahrain,” he told The Malaysian Insider, adding Najib will launch the caucus on April 14.
The prime minister is also due to meet US President
Zulkifli, who was expelled from PKR last month, told The Malaysian Insider that he will be in the US to attend the launch of the caucus, which was restarted recently after Jamaluddin became the ambassador in Washington.
“I will be in Washington for about a week,” Zulkifli said.
But he took great pains to deny his trip was linked to Najib’s delegation which includes a number of businessman for investment purposes.
“I am going to Washington, the Prime Minister will be in New York. I am going earlier, it has no connection with the Prime Minister’s visit.... no ... no,” the
Zulkifli said he was scheduled to attend the caucus meeting in February with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz but it clashed with another convention in South Korea.
Zahrain and Wangsa Maju MP Wee Choo Keong went with Nazri for the earlier trip.
Zulkifli also explained his membership in the caucus was decided by Parliament a while ago and had nothing to do with his former party or his current status as an independent MP.
Zahrain had earlier refused to confirm with The Malaysian Insider that he was going to the US again for the official launch of the caucus. “I don’t know, I have no information,” he said.
Nazri had said in February that the caucus had been in existence for the past decade but was not active due to lacklustre ties with the US.
“God willing, when the prime minister comes here in April, we can re- launch the Malaysia-US (Congressional) Caucus, which has been in existence for over 10 years. The fact that it has not moved speaks volumes of
Nazri said the caucus would serve as a platform to further strengthen ties between both countries and that through the caucus “we can plan programmes involving US Congress members and Malaysian Members of Parliament.”