Govt seeks 3 names from opposition for bipartisan emergency committee

Nantha Kumar, Ng Xiang Yi, Fion Yap
·4-min read
Govt seeks 3 names from opposition for bipartisan emergency committee
Govt seeks 3 names from opposition for bipartisan emergency committee

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan has written to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to request three candidates who will sit on the independent committee that will recommend to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong if the emergency declaration could be ended earlier than its current August date.

Government sources told Malaysiakini the letter has been sent to Anwar.

With its details yet to be made available, several Pakatan Harapan leaders, however, expressed reservations over the bipartisan committee announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in his televised address on Tuesday to announce the emergency declaration.

"Yes, YB (Takiyuddin) has sent a letter to Anwar. The minister requested the opposition to submit three names as its members on the independent committee," said a source from the Prime Minister’s Department.

When contacted, Harapan chief secretary Saifuddin Nasution confirmed receipt of the letter.

"Yes, I have received a call from Takiyuddin on the matter. I also received the letter on behalf of the opposition leader," he told Malaysiakini.

Saifuddin Nasution
Saifuddin Nasution

Saifuddin said he had also queried Takiyuddin on the committee's terms of reference and final composition.

"This is because the numbers of government and opposition MPs may be equal, or taking into consideration the latest developments, the opposition may have more MPs," he said, alluding to the withdrawal of support by BN MPs for Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional government.

Several hours after Muhyiddin appeared on national television to announce a national emergency, Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz said PN is a "minority government" with his decision to withdraw support.

'Reservations and scepticism'

Within Harapan, PKR vice-president Chang Lih Kang said the setting up of the committee with an advisory role will be unnecessary with cabinet and state administrations continuing to function as normal.

The Tanjung Malim MP said this was unlike the past emergency in history which saw the National Operations Council taking over the country's administration.

“Since the administration and cabinet will operate as usual, then what will be the function of this committee?

"If the committee is just to play an advisory role, I think there is no need to do so," he told Malaysiakini.

Chang Lih Kang
Chang Lih Kang

Chang added that opposition parties needed to know about the committee's terms of reference and purview before devising to accept or otherwise.

"Perhaps it (the membership) is just for cosmetic purpose," he said.

Similarly, DAP organising secretary Anthony Loke said Harapan is unable to make its stand on the committee pending further details.

"We need to have the details first, including the purpose and scope of power of the committee.

"Without details, we cannot commit ourselves,” said the Seremban MP.

On the other hand, Amanah vice-president Hasanuddin Yunus appeared more open to the idea, despite being against the emergency declaration as part of government's efforts to prevent elections from being held until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.

"Although we (Amanah) are strongly against the proclamation of emergency, any committees that can benefit the country we will usually take part,” said the Hulu Langat MP.

'Parliament the best platform for bipartisan discussion'

Parliament has been suspended under the emergency but Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking argued that the government should have first called for a special sitting to discuss the emergency proclamation.

"The best bipartisanship is through Parliament. Thus, the committee in question shouldn’t even arise if the prime minister doesn't call for an emergency Parliament sitting,” stressed the Penampang MP.

Darell Leiking
Darell Leiking

Darell insisted that the government should explain to the people as well as the elected representatives about the reasons to declare the emergency and allow the motion to be debated in the House.

“Present (the reasons) to the MPs so everybody can contribute their opinion and feedback from their constituencies; from that, we can determine what is next,” said Darell, adding that Warisan will not answer whether they will join the committee until the House convenes.

He also urged Muhyiddin to forget about the numbers of PN MPs, since the opposition will not push for snap polls during this period.

"The one who is pushing for the election is his friends - Umno, the PN government component," he said.

Meanwhile, Pejuang pro-tem deputy president Marzuki Yahya said the party will only discuss the matter after receiving an invitation from the government.

“We have not been informed yet, so I don’t think we want to discuss that.

“We don’t even support the emergency, so what's the reason we want to be in there?” asked the former Bersatu secretary-general.