Emergency: Insincere move with ulterior motive or wise step to control chaos?

·4-min read
Emergency: Insincere move with ulterior motive or wise step to control chaos?
Emergency: Insincere move with ulterior motive or wise step to control chaos?

The possible declaration of an emergency, ostensibly to fight Covid-19, has dominated conversations ever since the cabinet agreed on Friday to seek royal consent for the move.

However, critics say Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is trying to avoid his fragile Perikatan Nasional government being defeated in the Dewan Rakyat over the Budget 2021 vote.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong will convene a meeting with eight other Malay Rulers this afternoon where they are expected to discuss the cabinet's request to declare an "emergency", reportedly to facilitate the battle against Covid-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, opinions on the issue are flying thick and fast. This is what some organisations and individuals have to say:

Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) president Mohamed Arshad Raji (Rtd) calls the proposal absurd, ill-conceived, and insincere. He said:

"When news broke out on a proposal by the cabinet to place the nation under emergency, it caused an unprecedented public outcry. There were incessant calls by citizens of all levels of society to denounce the proposal, as the word emergency conjures a sense of uncertainty, fear and insecurity that is likely to affect the daily lives of citizens.

"Several of our learned legal minds have given comprehensive views against invoking the emergency rule, as well as numerous NGOs voicing disagreement. Patriot stands with them.

"A foregone conclusion if an emergency is imposed is that our already struggling economy will go into a tailspin, spiralling to a crash. Business and economic indicators will be flashing red – more bankruptcies, unemployment, retrenchment, foreclosure, loans default, higher private debt, stock market crash, and downgrading of our economy by rating agencies.

"Besides, there will be worsening social ills like more thefts, burglaries, and increased financial and emotional constraints faced by families. Families relying on handouts will get worse and face more hardship."

Former attorney-general Apandi Ali disagreed with his successor Tommy Thomas's assertion that the emergency was unconstitutional.

"Someone asked me whether the PM can declare a state of emergency, merely to stop a vote of no confidence and I said no. That is a legal conclusion.

"The follow-up question should be, can the PM pursuant to Article 150 of the Federal Constitution declare a state of emergency, when the Covid-19 pandemic does not fit in under Article 150?

"This is a question of interpretation. Tommy Thomas answered in the negative, as an economic problem does not fall under the precondition of 'security', which warrants the invocation of the proclamation of a state of emergency.

"That is a strict interpretation of the Federal Constitution. Let us approach it on a purposive interpretation, which permits a more liberal interpretation. What is the purpose of the Federal Constitution? Answer: To ensure the well being of Malaysia.

Now to the nitty-gritty. If, Covid-19 causes a pandemic (like now), and causes an economic upheaval, which results in instability, does that not become a security problem?

"If so, an emergency may be declared," he said.

Saratok MP Ali Biju also disagreed with Thomas, adding that an emergency declaration would not burden the rakyat.

"As an engineer who has been trained to always build a fail-safe pause or emergency button (pun intended) into any device we construct to ensure that there is always a security feature, ask two logical engineering questions:

"Would the rakyat get hurt when the government hits the pause button on politicking and instead focuses on fighting Covid-19 and healing the economy? Why insist on wanting the opportunity to defeat the government in Parliament which would have the effect of causing the whole nation to go to the polls when there are real health hazards and dangers out there?

"From what I have been made to understand, the emergency order that is being speculated to be announced soon does not entail military rule or curfews nor any restrictions on economic activities.

"In other words, the rakyat is not going to be burdened at all, and it will be business as usual for the shopkeeper towkays and the captains of industries. Taxi drivers still get to drive, and Tan Sri's still get to invest in the stock market.

"Only Parliament would be suspended, political activities limited, and wannabe superheroes cannot get to spook anyone with their strong, convincing, and formidable superpowers. So what seems to be the problem to the rakyat or the economy?

"My engineering logic tells me that disagreeing with an emergency means agreeing to election during a raging pandemic. And so the legalese of Tommy Thomas simply defies the rational logic of an engineer.

Senator Raja Bahrin Shah said Muhyiddin himself was committing an about turn.

"A few weeks ago, Muhyiddin still claimed that his PN government handled the Covid 19 epidemic with excellence with a great medical team.

"Now Malaysia is shocked by the prime minister's proposal to recommend that an emergency be declared by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong because of Covid-19.

"It is unlikely that in the blink of an eye, Covid-19 handling management situation that turns out to be brilliant can turn into an emergency situation under the same team.

"Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Mohamad Hassan, Thomas and other national figures agree that this emergency is a lifeline to save Muhyiddin and will destroy the Malaysian economy which is in crisis," he said.