Putrajaya seeks emergency powers in fighting Covid-19

Debra Chong
·3-min read
Sources told Malay Mail that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had rushed out of Putrajaya to Kuantan after chairing this morning’s special Cabinet meeting. — Bernama pic
Sources told Malay Mail that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had rushed out of Putrajaya to Kuantan after chairing this morning’s special Cabinet meeting. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is understood to be seeking an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be conferred special emergency powers during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sources told Malay Mail that the prime minister had rushed out of Putrajaya to Kuantan, Pahang after chairing this morning’s special Cabinet meeting.

Speculation had been rife since early this morning that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government may declare a state of emergency as Malaysia struggles to contain the daily spike in Covid-19 infections that has also hurt the economy.

It is unclear what the emergency powers being sought are at the moment as the breadth and scope under a state of emergency are far ranging.

Among them include the suspension of Parliament and elections, which provides for a layer of accountability from decision makers to elected representatives.

The Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya this morning was attended by several other government officials including Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, Armed Forces Chief General Tan Sri Affendi Buang. The latter two are also part of the National Security Council (NSC).

In a state of emergency, matters are decided largely by the prime minister on the advice of the NSC. However, this will depend on the powers being sought.

Some news agencies have suggested the King could take charge of government and act on the advice of an emergency Cabinet, which could be the present line-up or a new one altogether.

Singapore paper Straits Times (ST) quoted several anonymous sources saying the meeting was to discuss several proposals on dealing with the upcoming Budget 2021 tabling next month, where it is anticipated the PN’s spending proposals will be challenged by the Opposition.

PN — a loose alliance of political parties chiefly comprising leaders from Bersatu, Umno and PAS — took power in March following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration but continues to be plagued by political strife both internally and externally eight months on.

PN’s 113-seat majority in the Dewan Rakyat gives it very little room to steer in Parliament, especially if just two MPs were to abstain or be indisposed during a vote.

Several news agencies have speculated that the government may not invoke a state of emergency or darurat as it is better known in Malay, but couch it euphemistically to avoid sending the country into a tailspin.

One of these terms may be to call it an “economic emergency”, to thwart the possibility of snap polls being forced and to provide more time for the ruling PN to rein in the infections without being distracted by political instability.

“It will not be similar to the curfews and military presence we had after the 1969 race riots.

“Instead, normal life under the movement control order will continue without politics getting in the way of dealing with a health crisis,” an unnamed source said to have knowledge of these options presented during the Cabinet meeting told ST.

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