Friday September 5, 2008 - The Star
Barisan reps asked to hand in passports for study trip
By SIM LEOI LEOIPUTRAJAYA: Barisan Nasional MPs have been asked to submit their passports for an overseas study trip ahead of Sept 16, the date that is being bandied about for supposed defections to take place.
Backbenchers Club chairman Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing said the trip was the brainchild of the club but rejected suggestions that it was organised because of the Sept 16 claim.
“The trip came about after a few of our members got talking. We wanted MPs to update themselves with the latest information about agriculture and high-tech food production so that we can debate better on the Budget when Parliament sits again in October.
“This is the best time for the trip although it is the fasting month because after that, Hari Raya celebrations begin and Parliament will meet again,” he told The Star here yesterday.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been claiming that his plan to topple the Barisan government by Sept 16 was on track. He claimed that some 30 Barisan MPs, particularly from Sabah and Sarawak, were ready to defect.
It is understood that the trip, said to take place between Sept 7 and Sept 19, will be open to all MPs, especially those whose constituencies have agricultural concerns, and not just MPs from Sabah and Sarawak, said to be targets of PKR.
Tiong, the Bintulu MP, maintained that the trip “had nothing to do with Sept 16”, saying it was only natural to ask MPs to submit their passports for the purpose of visa applications and ticket bookings.
He said the club had not finalised how many MPs would be going on the trip or the actual date.
“We haven’t also decided on the destination country. You know me, I only like to announce something when all the details have been confirmed,” he said.
He stressed that it was not an “overseas retreat” but a study trip for MPs.
Deputy Backbenchers Club chairman Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin also confirmed there was such a trip to explore agricultural technology.
“Probably, the trip will be over this weekend. But we have not decided how many MPs will be participating,” the Kinabatangan MP said.
Kapit MP Alexander Nanta Linggi said he had been asked by fellow MPs from Sarawak if “he was available”.
“I told them that I was going on a trip with (Plantation Industries and Commodities) Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui on his palm oil campaign mission overseas to London and Belgium. They left it at that.”
Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman and Muar MP Razali Ibrahim said they had not been contacted by anybody on the proposed trip.
“I don’t know anything. I’ve been in my constituency the whole day and Parliament has not asked for my passport,” said Anifah, who is known for his vocal views during debate in Dewan Rakyat.
Pasik Salak MP Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman also denied being asked to go for the trip.
“What trip? I was not approached for this,” he added.