2021: A year of recovery, return of power, past reminiscent

by AZREEN HANI / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

2021 was predicted to be the year of recovery for Malaysia. However, many events this year turned out to be reminiscent of some events in the past, with some dating more than five decades ago.

The national Emergency, implemented early this year, and the recent massive floods that had since claimed 47 lives were almost eerily similar to what had taken place in the ‘70s.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had consented to declare an emergency from Jan 12 until Aug 1 following a request from then Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. In the subsequent months that followed, the King, however, announced that the Parliament may reconvene amid the Emergency.

However, in July, it seemed that the government and the Palace appeared to be at an impasse over the Emergency Ordinances (EOs) revocation.

In a surprise move that shook the nation, the Palace announced that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong did not consent to the revocation of the six EOs, which were done without a debate in Parliament but through a Cabinet meeting on July 21.

A Palace spokesperson said the King was “very disappointed” with the move and asserted that it was unconstitutional.

The political debate on the Emergency revocation as well as the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s Covid management and the suspension of Parliament may have paved the way for the rise of Barisan Nasional (BN), due to Muhyiddin’s resignation as the PM, despite his last minute attempt to strike a bipartisanship deal with the Opposition.

The rollout of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) since the first batch of vaccines arrived on Feb 23, was met with positive responses among the public with Muhyiddin becoming the first Malaysian to get the shot on Feb 23.

The NCIP brought a ray of hope that’s Malaysians can resume their lives under a new normal, but rising Covid-19 cases eventually forced the government to impose a nationwide lockdown on May 28. The decision received many criticisms from industry economic players, as well as policymakers.

This resulted in Malaysia’s economy contracting 4.5% year-on-year (YoY) in the third quarter of 2021 (3Q21) due to the strict containment measures instituted to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Prior to resigning, Muhyiddin unveiled a National Recovery Plan for Covid-19 in June which would see all economic sectors reopening by December and the Parliament reconvening as early as September. The Pagoh MP resigned on Aug 16, after 17 months of facing political and pandemic challenges in power.

BN’s return in the federal administration saw Bera MP Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob becoming the ninth PM — where he also created history as the first Opposition leader to become the nation’s premier. Ismail Sabri was sworn in on Aug 22.

He was quick to seal a memorandum of understanding with the Opposition leaders in October, aimed at providing much needed political stability before the 15th General Election. He also managed to secure a big win in the Melaka state election, as well as in Sarawak to an extent — proving that BN means business this time. However, this does not stop the political discontent at PAS, Umno’s Muafakat Nasional partner, which chose to remain with the Muhyiddin-led PN as their political alliance.

Ismail Sabri marked his 100-day of leadership with the Aspirasi Keluarga Malaysia celebration, in which he rated his whole Cabinet’s performance at 90%. However, the celebratory mood was cut short following the catastrophic floods that hit Selangor, Pahang, Melaka and Kelantan.

The government was criticised for what is perceived as a slow response on flood management, while the public and environmentalists demanded for a thorough inquiry and even a Royal Commission not only on the flood management, but also deforestation issues in some states nationwide.

Ismail Sabri pledged that all flood victims will be given priority in getting government assistance, and that all state and federal governments will work together to provide the necessary resources.

“InsyaAllah, I will make sure that all of them get the best post-flood care and assistance, especially the sick and small children who have lost their shelter,” he said.

Separately, in one of the most anticipated criminal cases in the country — SRC International Sdn Bhd trial — the Court of Appeal upheld the 12-year jail term and RM210 million fine for Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s role in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd-linked scandal.

“This is no national interest as the appellant claimed for SRC. This is a national embarrassment,” Justice Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil said while delivering the verdict on Dec 8.