Malaysians must have been taken by surprise when Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made the emergency proclamation on 12 January, a day after he had announced the implementation of another round of movement controls to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.
It is like being injected with a double dose of vaccines within just two days, causing shock among the patients who were not prepared for it.
But then, after the so-called Sheraton Move last February that brought about the collapse of a democratically elected Pakatan Harapan government, Malaysians should by now be used to political surprises and anxiety.
The proclamation of emergency rule should not jolt us too much for it can be read as a step forward for Muhyiddin and his cabinet after a failed attempt last October to secure royal assent to declare emergency rule in a supposed aim to curb the increasing spread of the coronavirus soon after the Sabah elections.
The Sabah election was triggered by the fall of the Warisan government after several assembly members deserted the ruling party.
Malaysians are certainly deeply concerned by the increasing cases of Covid-19 victims and would welcome necessary measures that would stem the tide of the menacing pandemic, in particular the various kinds of movement control orders that have been enforced in various parts of the country.
While many would welcome a much stricter implementation of these pandemic control measures, there is also concern about the adverse impact of these measures on the economically vulnerable, such as daily wage earners and small businesses.
But the vital question that has been raised by concerned Malaysians, including legal experts and human rights activists, is, does this pandemic really warrant a declaration of an emergency, which is normally instituted for something that is much more serious, such as a dangerous threat to national security?
Equally important to ponder: an emergency rule has very serious implications for democracy, which has been our chosen political path since independence.
The suspension of Parliament and state assemblies, which is one of the consequences of the emergency, would place our country on a slippery slope, for this means that the crucial mechanism of checks and balances has been taken away from our democratic processes.
It also suggests that the voice of the people, through their elected representatives, has been unjustly and undemocratically muted. This cuts the channel where the government could listen to what the people have to say.
And we are also aware where carte blanche for a ruler could lead a country to.
If the larger context to a certain development is crucial to our better understanding of things, then what happened prior to the emergency proclamation is ominous.
Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakob had publicly withdrawn his support for the PN government. A day before the emergency proclamation, Padang Rengas MP Nazri Abdul Aziz followed suit, reducing the government’s parliamentary seats to a mere 109. This is apart from the previous threat from Umno to pull out all of its ministers from the government.
With this in mind, it is not too much of a stretch to contend that the emergency proclamation is more than just about fighting the epidemic.
And if this is true, the government would be mocking the intelligence of the people and violating their fundamental rights. – The Malaysian Insight