Muhyiddin: Emergency powers only for fighting Covid-19

PM says the powers will ensure the govt can co-opt resources and promulgate specific laws in its fight against Covid-19


PRIME Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) assured the nation that the emergency powers declared by the King yesterday will be used only to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia and that the civilian government will continue to function.

Muhyiddin addressed the nation yesterday just hours after the palace issued a statement that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has declared a national state of emergency to be in effect until Aug 1 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Let me assure you that the civilian government will continue to function. The emergency proclaimed by the King is not a military coup, and curfew will not be enforced,” Muhyiddin said.

The PM said the emergency powers will be used to ensure that the government can co-opt resources and promulgate specific laws in its fight against Covid-19.

The provisions are contained under Article 150 Clause (2B) of the Federal Constitution that gives the power to the King to promulgate ordinances, if he is satisfied that certain circumstances appeared to him to require immediate action.

Muhyiddin said the King could introduce ordinances to allow the government to use private hospitals’ assets, temporarily take over lands, buildings, or request to use their resources for the purpose of treating Covid-19 patients.

He said the emergency would also allow the government to allocate specific powers to the military and police to curb illegal immigration and arrest intruders.

Security at the borders would also be strengthened by the armed forces emergency powers.

For the duration of the emergency, Muhyiddin said Parliament and state assemblies are suspended, as well as all elections until a time consented by the King.

Meanwhile, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun said in a statement that only the assembly’s legislative processes cannot be carried out during the emergency period.

However, he said the position and responsibilities of all MPs remain the same as the lifting of Parliament sittings does not mean the Parliament has been dissolved.

He said a special independent committee that will be formed — which includes government and Opposition MPs and health experts — will determine when it is safe to run a general election.

Muhyiddin also assures that the judiciary will continue to function to uphold the law, and the government will not interfere in its system.

This is the second time that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has asked the King to declare an emergency since October last year.

The King then rejected the request, while admonishing parties to curb politicking at a time when MPs were rumoured to have withdrawn support for the PN government and putting it in danger of collapse.

Responding to yesterday’s proclamation, analysts said it seemed to be a necessary evil for the government to gain emergency powers, but the move is risky from a political standpoint.

“It is a good thing that the government wants emergency powers to fight a rampant disease, but there is no doubt that it benefits the current administration politically when MPs are publicly withdrawing support,” said an analyst.

The emergency announcement comes just a day after the government re-introduced the strict Movement Control Order (MCO) in five states and three Federal Territories.

“While I support our PM’s call for MCO, Conditional MCO and Recovery MCO, which I was both hoping and expecting, to combat the threatening spike, I think the emergency raises serious questions on parliamentary democracy,” said Universiti Malaya (UM) economist Prof Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah to The Malaysian Reserve.

Political analyst Associate Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi of UM said the emergency proclamation is important to avoid a snap election or any by-elections, hence, ensuring political stability and giving the government more room to concentrate on public health.

“Yet, when it comes to parliamentary democracy, it is not good precedence for the country,” he said.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali said the suspension of Parliament and all elections will ensure stability for the government, at least until it ends.

“Coincidentally, when this emergency was declared, Muhyiddin was facing the risk of losing power due to Umno’s plan in retracting its support. This will lead to the perception that democracy is trying to be denied,” he said.

In a statement yesterday, Umno said while they uphold the King’s decree, the emergency powers — which granted huge power to the government — must be used only to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Umno also hopes that the country can return to the democratic system as usual after the goal of declaring the emergency has been achieved,” Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

In a separate statement, Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposed the reasons and excuses behind the emergency proclamation, as proposed by Muhyiddin, as existing laws such as the enforcement of MCO are sufficient.

“Muhyiddin’s proposal for an emergency, when he had lost the support of the majority of MPs, including from Machang (Ahmad Jazlan) and Padang Rengas (Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz), indicates that this move (emergency) is not acceptable at all,” the PH presidential council said.

In his facebook post, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang described Muhyiddin’s move as reasonable, so the government can focus on managing the Covid-19 crisis.

Read our earlier report

PM: No GE, Parliament sittings and curfew in emergency period