MPs off to Taiwan Some of the 41 Barisan backbenchers leaving for a a study trip to Taiwan yesterday. Among those who boarded the flight from KLIA were (from left) Huan Cheng Guan, Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin Nancy Shukri, Datuk Halimah Mohd Sadique and Datuk Md. Sirat Abu.
Forty-one Barisan Nasional MPs have left for Taipei for a one-week study trip organised by the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BBC).
They included nine from Sabah and 10 from Sarawak, BBC deputy chairman Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin said, adding that one more each from the two states would also join the trip. The MPs left in two batches yesterday.
Bung Mokhtar, who is Kinabatangan MP, said eight more were expected to leave today, including BBC chairman Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, and five more on Wednesday.
Out of the 78 backbenchers, 54 would go on the trip. Most of them will return on Sept 17.
Bung Mokhtar said the organisers had to “wait and see” who would turn up at the airport, as some only decided on the trip at the last minute.
The MPs, however, quashed speculation that the trip was planned to derail Pakatan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s plan to topple the Government on Sept 16 by getting Barisan MPs to jump ship.
“The trip was planned three months ago to learn about agriculture technologies. Agriculture is the third engine of growth for Malaysia,” Bung Mokhtar said, adding that they would go to Kaohsiung, Taipei and Taitung and visit three factories.
“We chose Taiwan two days ago, as Taiwan confirmed it was able to conduct our study tour.”
This was the best time for the trip, he said, as after Hari Raya, Parliament would be in session until December.
On speculation that the trip was to ensure the MPs were out of the country on Sept 16, he said: “What is there to be afraid of? The (Barisan) MPs have no intention of leaving,”
Sabah MPs not likely to make the trip include Sabah Backbenchers Club chairman Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman (Umno), the vocal Kalabakan MP Datuk Ghapur Salleh (Umno) and the two rebellious Sabah Progressive Party MPs Datuk Eric Enchin Majimbun (Sepangar) and Datuk Dr Chua Soon Bui (Tawau).
“There are not many who cannot make it. Those who cannot have prior commitments, are on umrah or are at the UN meeting. Sept 16 is not a factor,” said Bung Mokhtar.
He said the MPs would have to bear their own expenses but declined to say how much the trip would cost. MPs interviewed were unsure of the details of the itinerary and who would bear the expenses.
The MPs received different messages informing them to participate in the trip, Chong said.
Labis MP Chua Tee Yong said he and Gelang Patah MP Tan Ah Eng were the only two MCA backbenchers who could join the trip as the other three – Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, Datuk Seri Fong Chan Onn and Lee Chee Leong – were tied up with the party elections.
PKR trying to reach travelling MPs
Pakatan Rakyat is discussing how to reach out to 50 Barisan Nasional MPs on a study trip in Taiwan, said de facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“We discussed ways to connect with them, to contact them, find out when they are coming back, or if perhaps some will come back earlier, Anwar said after the meeting yesterday at the party’s headquarters.
Asked if the Sept 16 deadline would be deferred, Anwar said “it is too soon to say”.
He also said that the MPs trip to Taiwan showed that the Government was scared.
“Umno is panicking, that’s why they took the MPs out. Perhaps they will take the Parliament to Taiwan” he said in jest, questioning the reason for a study trip in the middle of Ramadan.
On Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s controversial statement that the Chinese were immigrants, Anwar said Pakatan Rakyat had slammed speech made by him as reflecting racist views in Umno.
“They are using racial issues to defend the survival of a few Malay cronies and not the Malay rakyat,” he said.
PAS vice president Datuk Husam Musa and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang attended the meeting.
The Star 9.9.2008