King denies govt emergency powers

Sultan Abdullah also warns against excessive politicking that will destabilise the govt, stressing that Budget 2021 needs to be tabled to fight virus and restore economy


THE King has rejected the government’s bid to acquire emergency powers to fight Covid-19 in the country.

In rejecting Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s proposal yesterday, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah (picture) said there was no urgency to impose a state of emergency in any part of the country to combat the pandemic at this time.

Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement that the Palace believed that the current administration had taken all necessary steps in combating the virus.

“The King is convinced with the capability of the current administration to implement policies and enforcements to contain the spread of the Covid-19 disease.

“As such, Sultan Abdullah believed that there is no requirement, at the time being, for the King to declare the state of emergency in the state, or any part of the nation.”

The statement was issued after the King consulted for several hours with the Malay Rulers at the Istana Negara yesterday.

However, the King also warned against excessive politicking that will destabilise the government, stressing that the upcoming Budget 2021 needs to be tabled not only in efforts to fight the virus, but also to restore the economy.

“Thus, the financial allocations are much needed by the frontliners to carry out their duties and responsibilities,” he added.

The government had presented its proposal to the King in Kuantan on Saturday. Sultan Abdullah told the delegation he would consult the Malay Rulers before making the decision.

The proposal for emergency power followed a spike in the number of Covid 19 infections in the country, but also after Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim presented the King with evidence that he had more support in Parliament than that enjoyed by the PM, which triggered several proposals for a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin at the next sitting in November.

Prior to this, several experts told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that Malaysia’s in a dire need to restore investors’ confidence for the economy to rebound and recover from the health and economic crisis.

Universiti Malaya economist Prof Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah said any effort to declare a state of emergency will only aggravate the workings of Malaysia’s economy, which will be bad for all segments of the country’s population — both the rich and the poor.

Rajah said the unemployment rate is likely to hit 13% with around 2.4 million job losses by 2021 due to the current restrictions under the Recovery Movement Control Order (MCO) and Conditional MCO in the Klang Valley, Sabah and Labuan.

The public had mixed reactions to the proposed emergency, with some arguing that the emergency law is only intended to keep Muhyiddin in power as the razorthin majority government may lose support during the tabling of Budget 2021.

Rajah said Malaysia is still doing reasonably well compared to most other countries and an emergency rule will only make the situation worse.

“We are not in a state of siege that is threatening to undermine its socioeconomic fundamentals.”

Malaysia previously went through four states of emergency after its formation in 1963 — two nationwide and two state-specific emergencies in Sarawak three years later and Kelantan in 1977. This is on top of the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 to fight the communists’ insurgency.

Economist Dr Nungsari Ahmad Radhi said a declaration of emergency under the present circumstances will not only be disastrous for the economy, it will also make it hard to attract new investments.

“At a time when Malaysia is seeing declining investments — both domestic and foreign — in the last decade or so, this is the time when we need investments in new growth initiatives.

“We need investors’ confidence and (it) needs to be there as part of the rebound in a post-Covid-19 world,” he told TMR. Nungsari said the government should also be cognisant of the fact that the federal budget is currently in deficit and the government has to borrow in order to table next year’s budget.

“This action (emergency) will likely result in the downgrade of Malaysia as a sovereign in the capital markets where the government borrows from.

“It will raise the costs of that inevitable borrowing and it will raise the country risk assigned to Malaysia,” Nungsari added.

As a result, Malaysia may have to depend almost entirely on domestic sources when more than a third of outstanding debts are foreign-sourced.

“This will also put the main source of domestic funds, such as the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), at higher risk.”

Former Khazanah Nasional Bhd MD Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim predicted that it was difficult for the Malay Rulers to support the declaration of emergency because Malaysia has invested heavily in the economy, especially the stock market.

He said a state of emergency would impact more than 14 million ordinary Malays who have accounts under EPF and Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB).

“These funds invest a lot in Bursa Malaysia. If the stock market collapses, they can’t pay good dividends to the account holders,” he said in a statement.

“In 1969 there was no PNB, so ordinary Malays did not bother about the economy collapsing. It’s a different Malaysia today,” Mohd Sheriff said.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Kuala Lumpur senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali said a state of emergency is the last resort that the Palace would consider, should political reconciliation fails.

“I think the Palace will consider a few options. If political parties are willing to bring the matter to the table and set aside their differences for the nation, a unity government could be the best option. Otherwise, we may have to go through the emergency, ” he told TMR.