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Emergency rule: Concern mounts over fate of parliamentary democracy

Muhyiddin is desperately clinging on to power when the signs are he he has lost his wafer-thin parliamentary majority

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Like many other groups and individuals in Malaysia, we were shocked and disturbed to hear that the backdoor prime minister had successfully advised the Agong to declare a nationwide state of emergency to last for at least six months, ironically until 1 August.

Muhyiddin had initially floated the idea of declaring an emergency last year, when he found himself in a precarious position, with his coalition of opportunists demanding more than their pound of flesh from him. It appeared then that he was about to lose his position as PM.

So, he sought the Agong’s consent to declare an emergency, but he was rebuffed. Malaysians, as a whole, spoke up loudly and clearly against the idea. And the Agong agreed with us.

Then, as now, the country was still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the many movement control orders that virtually crippled much of the economy.

Now, as then, Muhyiddin finds himself in a bit of a pickle, with MPs from his coalition abandoning him.

These control orders were seen as a necessity then, as it is now.

But a lackadaisical attitude by the authorities during and after the Sabah state election last September has seen Covid-19 cases shoot up frighteningly to the thousands daily. Those returning to the peninsula after the election, sadly, were not required to undergo quarantine.

Over the last six months, politicians, including ministers, have been publicly flouting the standard operating procedures and not being penalised for it.

There has really been very little enforcement, to be honest. And when penalties were imposed, it was clear the weak were punished, while those in power were excused.

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It is not surprising then that we find ourselves in the present quandary. In just 24 hours, first a new movement control order was announced; then, less than a day later, a nationwide state of emergency was declared.

Most people would understand the need for a new movement control orders to tackle the fast-rising numbers of new infections. And clearly, Malaysia has enough laws to enable the implementation of such orders. 

Therein lies the problem – implementation. All it requires is commitment by the politicians, and this will be transferred down to the enforcers and front-line personnel. It is their lack of commitment that is the problem.

Declaring a state of emergency at this point does not sound logical as it does not confer any more benefits to Malaysians than the just-imposed movement control order. 

A nationwide state of emergency does not provide solutions for the desperate state of our economy and the hardship and struggles faced by many Malaysians.

Unlike the first time controls were imposed, no financial and other means of support are being proposed by the regime for the many industries that are still struggling to recover and for the many more Malaysians made redundant who are now suffering.

What it does is to confer immense power on the PM. Muhyiddin says that the only reason for the emergency is to fight the spread of the coronavirus. But the movement control order already serves that purpose.

So, as members of the legal fraternity have asked, where is the emergency?

The PM’s assertion that the spread of the pandemic is an emergency is questionable. It is a public health issue, but is it an emergency, as defined in our laws? Some legal experts do not think so.

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So, we are concerned about the fate of parliamentary democracy and the lack of checks and balances under such an emergency.

Suspending Parliament, state assembly sittings and elections while everything else remains normal under this emergency smacks of Muhyiddin wanting desperately to hang on to power when it has become clear he has lost his wafer-thin majority in Parliament.

We oppose Muhyiddin’s attempt to abuse parliamentary democracy in this way. We call for the swift revocation of this emergency declaration, the reinstatement of parliamentary sittings and rule, and the return of power back to our representatives.

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