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Government should not resort to emergency declaration to combat pandemic

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Based on media reports that the government is considering declaring an economic emergency due to the spike in Covid-19 cases, the Malaysian Bar expresses deep concerns about this move.

Such action is likely to cause even greater anxiety among the rakyat due to the uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Malaysian Bar takes the view that our nation already has sufficient measures in place to combat the pandemic, thanks to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) that provides the government with capacious and wide-ranging powers.

We are of the opinion that an emergency is unwarranted and should be avoided as it would do nothing to ease the concerns of an already flustered public. We already have existing laws and mechanisms in place to handle the surge in Covid-19 cases.

Declaring a nationwide emergency is disproportionate as there are already standard operating procedures in place.

The Malaysian Bar is concerned that an emergency would cause a plunge in confidence for individuals and businesses alike.

What the rakyat need now is stability and a strong focus on public health instead of emergency laws.

Any move to declare an emergency will be perceived as a regressive approach on the rule of law and parliamentary democracy.

The Malaysian Bar is also deeply troubled over the threat of a potential constitutional crisis should a state of emergency be declared.

In the absence of a formal declaration of emergency of states, states are nevertheless able to adopt extraordinary measures to ensure that public health is protected by temporarily restricting certain rights of individuals. It must be noted that such restrictions must be proportionate, legal, as well as necessary.

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The Malaysian Bar hopes that the government can reconsider its move towards declaring an emergency as a means to combat the pandemic. We have confidence that the government will be able to handle the current situation and find prudent solutions in our battle against the invisible enemy, without a declaration of emergency.

Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

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