Talk of emergency gains momentum, amplified by mainstream media

·3-min read
Talk of emergency gains momentum, amplified by mainstream media
Talk of emergency gains momentum, amplified by mainstream media

Speculation that the government will beseech the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare a state of emergency is gaining momentum, amplified by several media outlets, including those in the mainstream.

At the time of writing, there has been no indication yet from Putrajaya that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would resort to such a move.

A state of emergency has been posited as an option for the government to better handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it is also perceived as a way for Muhyiddin to avoid calling a snap election if he loses majority support in the Dewan Rakyat. This is because the Federal Constitution would be suspended, negating the need for polls.

Constitutional expert Shamrahayu Aziz started the ball rolling today with a lengthy Facebook post on 15 questions and answers on how a state of emergency works.

The post has since been republished by mainstream media agencies Bernama and Astro Awani. The news is becoming viral on social media.

On the same note, lawyer Lim Wei Jiet’s tweets regarding his concerns on the subject are also being widely circulated.

Lim said a state of emergency would spook investors and give the executive powers to form ordinance laws that could infringe on the Federal Constitution and basic human rights without going through Parliament.

Meanwhile, MalaysiaNow - a nascent news outlet - also published an article citing sources as saying that the cabinet would discuss the possibility of an emergency as senior health officials are concerned that a snap general election could worsen the Covid-19 situation.

Muhyiddin is chairing a special cabinet meeting today, where it is believed he will be discussing the 2021 budget and the current state of the pandemic.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

The meeting, however, has also led to speculation of a cabinet reshuffle following Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s announcement that his party would strengthen cooperation with Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional, a week after threatening to withdraw support.

Speculation is that Umno wants senior cabinet positions, including the deputy prime ministership.

However, highly-placed sources who spoke to Malaysiakini have given no indication that an emergency declaration or a cabinet reshuffle are in the works.

What is an emergency declaration?

A state of emergency can be declared by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the executive, if there is a credible threat to the country’s safety, economy, or public order.

According to Shamrahayu, a state of emergency can be declared while Parliament is in session or after it is dissolved. It does not result in the House being suspended if it has not been disbanded.

If Parliament is not in session or has been dissolved, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can approve emergency ordinance laws.

According to Shamrahayu, legislative powers will be returned to Parliament if it convenes during an emergency. Parliament can, however, pass an ordinance giving the power back to the King.

A state of emergency can be declared over the entire country or in any area of the federation.

If a nationwide emergency is declared, there will be no need to hold a general election within 60 days of Parliament being dissolved.

Muhyiddin currently holds federal power with just a slim two-seat majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim claimed last month that he now has majority support to form a new government. This is believed to be with the support of Umno MPs.

Last week, Umno said it was mulling withdrawing support from PN amid tensions with Muhyiddin’s party Bersatu - which is perceived to have been sidelining Umno in the loose federal alliance.

However, Zahid has since reversed Umno’s position, backing PN and calling for a political ceasefire to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

As of noon yesterday, there were 8,183 active Covid-19 cases in the country.