Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah will meet with the country’s sultans to discuss Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s proposals, the palace said on Saturday, without going into their content. Muhyiddin reportedly wants to declare a state of emergency.
Muhyiddin met the king on Friday to come up with a proposal that would lead to the suspension of parliament, Reuters news agency sources said. The possible move was widely condemned by the country’s opposition politicians and received with alarm by the Malaysians.
The king would meet the other rulers “soon,” said Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, the royal household’s controller, in a statement. The Prime Minister’s Office has not commented on the proposal.
Muhyiddin has had questions about his support in the 222-seat parliament since his appointment as prime minister in March, and pressure has increased since opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim said last week he had secured the support needed to To become prime minister.
Malaysia is also battling a sudden resurgence of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The country now has more than 24,000 cases of COVID-19, more than double what it was a month ago. More than 700 and 800 cases a day have been reported over the past week, and the country recorded 10 deaths on Friday, the highest since the pandemic began.
Malaysia has seen a sudden resurgence of COVID-19 and new restrictions were put in place earlier this month [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]
Most were in Sabah, where a state election was held on Sept. 26, but the outbreak there has also helped close seed clusters to the peninsula – a two-hour flight over the South China Sea – and Kuala Lumpur and Selangor – the richest state in the country – have been partially closed since October 14th.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply concerned” about reports of an emergency.
“A state of emergency is declared when our national security is threatened,” he said in a statement. “But if the government itself is the source of this threat, then a state of emergency is nothing more than a descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”
Of course we are all tired of politics. But even if they suspend parliament and declare the emergency, politics will not stop. Because the suspension of Parliament is a political move, NOT a public health move.
– Marina Mahathir (@netraKL) October 23, 2020
A break from politics … you mean a break from democracy? It was a slippery slope and we are now at the end. Congratulations
– Sharifah Hani Yasmin (@sharifahyasmiin) October 23, 2020
On Friday, Muhyiddin’s cabinet held a special session attended by the chief of police and the chief of the armed forces. He then flew to the east coast for a two-hour audience with the king. Local media reported from unnamed sources within the government that an emergency was necessary due to “political instability” and the COVID-19 outbreak.
In an open letter, seven former presidents of the Malaysian Bar Council said Malaysia’s success in combating previous waves of the disease had shown that existing laws were sufficient.
“There is no violence or threat to our nation’s security,” they wrote, calling on the government to reconsider the situation.
“If the primary aim of the proposed declaration is to suspend Parliament and gain emergency powers, then it will appear to be an illegal bill which, if left unchecked, will disenfranchise and deceive Malaysians.”
The next session of the Malaysian parliament is slated to begin on November 2nd, with the government facing its first test within a few days of budget submission on November 6th.
Failure to pass the spending plans could be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the government and lead to a general election.
During the final session in July, Muhyiddin, who rules in a loose alliance with a number of ethnic Malay and Islamic parties, won the vote to replace the speaker with a majority of just two.
Multi-ethnic Malaysia was last ruled in an emergency in 1969 after dozens of people, most of the then ethnic Chinese, were killed in the race riots in Kuala Lumpur.
As part of the ordinance, the constitution was repealed, the parliament dissolved and the government functions placed under a National Operations Council. A curfew restored order to the streets, but the media was disturbed and prominent opposition politicians were arrested under provisions that allowed indefinite detention.
Parliament re-convened in February 1971 and political life resumed, but the actual Emergency Ordinance was not fully repealed until 2013.