Prioritise rule of law and welfare of the people during Emergency, says Malaysian Bar

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
·3-min read
Salim today urged the politicians to make the plight and welfare of Malaysians their first priority. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Salim today urged the politicians to make the plight and welfare of Malaysians their first priority. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 ― With the absence of parliamentary checks and balances during the period of the Emergency, the Malaysian Bar today said it hoped the temporary pause of the Constitution would not lead to the erosion of the country’s democracy and rule of law.

Outlining how the Bar is of the impression that an Emergency appears to be an excessive response to the Covid-19 pandemic, its president Salim Bashir in a statement also expressed the legal fraternity’s worry about how the government plans to go about drafting new laws.

“While most people can understand the need for a targeted movement control order, the Government’s request for an Emergency Declaration appears to be overblown.

“The Government can exhaustively utilise to the fullest extent, a wide range of powers as provided by the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342),” Salim wrote.

Salim explained that these new laws, or Ordinances, are new regulations made for emergency purposes which unlike normal Bills that require being debated and passed in Parliament, Ordinances only require the proclamation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for them to become official regulations.

“The Malaysian Bar hopes that a Declaration of Emergency will not put our democracy and rule of law at peril, as there will be few, or almost no mechanisms, to act as checks and balances on the exercise of that power.

“We hope that any law intended by the Executive for the purpose of strengthening enforcement to curb the spread of Covid-19, will not be unduly harsh.

“The Malaysian Bar is equally concerned about the ramifications that this Emergency will have on human rights and civil liberties, as ordinary legal procedures need not be followed when Parliament makes laws,” Salim wrote.

This comes as the movement control order (MCO) was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin a day before the Agong declared the nation would go under a state of Emergency until August 1, or an earlier date if the pandemic comes under control.

The move to seek for an Emergency has received mixed reactions with most politicians, aside from those from Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), questioning the need for an Emergency compounded with the MCO.

Salim today then urged the politicians to make the plight and welfare of Malaysians their first priority, suggesting the Emergency is in place only as a political circuit breaker to halt the internal squabbling, suggesting it gives lawmakers ample time to focus on their constituents.

The Bar president also expressed their worry of how the Emergency and MCOs implemented would adversely affect the country’s economy.

“The Malaysian Bar calls on the Government and political parties to prioritise the welfare of the rakyat during their battle against Covid-19.

“The country needs to focus on rebuilding a resilient economy for the sake of the nation,” Salim added.

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