As Malaysia’s Parliament Meets, Govt announces it Won’t Extend Emergency

Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
2021-07-26
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As Malaysia’s Parliament Meets, Govt announces it Won’t Extend Emergency Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a special session of the House of Representatives at the parliament in Kuala Lumpur, July 26, 2021.
[Handout Malaysia's Department of Information via AFP]

The Malaysian government said it would not extend a state of emergency beyond the original expiry date of Aug. 1, as parliament met on Monday for the first time this year since being suspended in January.

Angry opposition lawmakers denounced Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for not allowing debates about the coronavirus pandemic or the national emergency during the five-day session. MPs from the opposition shouted throughout his speech to parliament.

“I want to confirm that the government has agreed not to advise the King to extend the Proclamation of Emergency when it ends on August 1,” Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said in parliament.

“The government also decided … to revoke the Emergency Ordinances that were made during the Emergency proclamation.”

The government revoked all six emergency ordinances on July 21, the minister said.

Takiyuddin’s announcement took many lawmakers by surprise. It led to an uproar in the lower house. One MP after another stood up to ask questions about the perceived secretive manner in which the ordinances were revoked.

Steven Sim, a lawmaker from the Democratic Action Party, harkened back to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office on June 30 that said Muhyiddin had been admitted to hospital with an upset stomach.

“The Prime Minister made an announcement that he had diarrhea but he cannot announce the revocation of these laws?” Sim said.

‘Embarrassing for Muhyiddin’

The decision to reconvene parliament before Aug. 1, after it was suspended Jan. 12 along with the emergency declaration, came after repeated calls from Malaysia’s king. It was important for lawmakers to sit so they could debate the emergency ordinances and the government’s plan to combat the pandemic, the king had said.

The PM had said the emergency was imposed to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, but Malaysia has been setting grim records in new cases and virus-related deaths since then.

Almost all opposition parties and other critics had alleged that Muhyiddin, who leads an unelected government and is clinging to the narrowest of majorities in parliament, had imposed the emergency and suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no-confidence against him.

One analyst said that presenting the decision to not extend the emergency as a fait accompli in parliament was a similar move to the one in January – to eliminate the need for having a vote in parliament.

“They were forced to revoke the ordinances because otherwise they will be forced to table the same bill in parliament and it will be very embarrassing for Muhyiddin if he loses the vote or wins by a small majority,” James Chin, a political analyst from Tasmania, told BenarNews.

No debates

Opposition lawmakers were also up in arms that the government had decided in advance that there would be no debates or votes in parliament during this session.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad asked what the point was of a parliamentary session without debate, especially amid record high new COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country.

“Do we need to wait till 1,000 people die in a day that only then we take action? Are we going to discuss ways to deal with the problem? But this is not even the focus during this non- parliamentary session,” Mahathir said Monday, indicating this was not a regular parliament sitting.

“This is just a briefing. We did not need to be briefed because we already read about the plans and we know it did not work.”

Critics have said that complicated lockdown protocols and allowing more than a dozen manufacturing sectors to operate at 60 percent capacity were among the reasons for a surge in infections despite a shutdown since June 1.

During his appearance before parliament on Monday, Muhyiddin defended his government after the country crossed 1 million COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with record high new infections reported on Saturday and Sunday.

“True, this government is not perfect,” Muhyiddin told the legislature.

“But what is also true is that the government of the day does not sit by idly and let people suffer, and instead is always on the move to act and save the people’s lives and livelihood.”

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