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COVID-19: No need to declare state of emergency at this time, says Malaysian king

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no need to declare a state of emergency in Malaysia at this time, said King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Sunday (Oct 25), in response to suggestions put forward by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin regarding the COVID-19 situation.

In a statement issued by the palace, Controller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said that the king “is of the opinion, that at this time, there is no need for His Majesty to implement a state of emergency in the country or any specific areas of the country.” 

“Even so, His Majesty would like to remind politicians to immediately stop all politicking that could disrupt the stability of the government,” the statement said. 

“Al-Sultan Abdullah is also of the opinion that there is no need for Members of Parliament to continue their irresponsible actions that may jeopardize the stability of the existing Government,” Mr Ahmad Fadhil added. 

The statement added that the National Budget, which will be tabled in Parliament in November, “is very important to the people in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and reviving the country’s economy”. 

“Therefore, financial allocation is very much needed by frontline staff to undergo their duties and responsibilities.” 

The announcement was made after the king met other Malay rulers earlier in the day to discuss the suggestions put forward by Mr Muhyiddin. 

Article 150 of the Constitution stipulates that the Malaysian king may issue a proclamation of emergency, upon the advice of the prime minister, if he is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, economic life or public order is threatened.

COVID-19 cases in Malaysia have now surged to more than 25,000, with a record daily jump of 1,228 new cases reported on Saturday. 

On Friday, Mr Muhyiddin had chaired a special Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya. Following that, he sought an audience with the king at the latter’s palace in Kuantan, Pahang. 

The king said on Saturday that he would meet with the other Malay rulers to discuss the suggestions put forward by the prime minister.

Muhyiddin Yassin Kuantan palace

A car believed to be carrying Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin arriving at Istana Abdulaziz in Kuantan, Pahang on Oct 23, 2020 for an audience with King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah. (Photo: Bernama) 

Commenting on the king’s meeting with the other rulers, Mr Ahmad Fadhil said: “After considering the request (from the prime minister) and discussing with the Malay rulers, and considering the situation of the country, Al-Sultan Abdullah felt the current government has managed to deal with this pandemic well and effectively.

“His Majesty strongly believes in the ability of the Government under the leadership of the Prime Minister to continue to implement policies and enforcement actions to curb the symptoms of the COVID-19 epidemic from continuing to spread.”

Rumours that Mr Muhyiddin wanted to impose a state of emergency had prompted opposition leaders to condemn the proposal. 

Opposition leader and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim has said that the proposal would curb the parliamentary process.

“Today, we have a government which lacks legitimacy, and which knows it would fail to demonstrate majority support in parliament, and is using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to justify its abuse of power,” the opposition leader said in a statement on Friday. 

Mr Anwar, who leads the Pakatan Harapan (PH) bloc in parliament against Mr Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, also strongly advised the latter to consider the legacy of his actions. 

The Malaysian parliament is set to reconvene on Nov 2, with the tabling of next year’s budget on Nov 6.  Moreover, polling for Batu Sapi by-election in Sabah has been set for Dec 5.  

In March, the rising case number had compelled the government to institute a nationwide movement control order (MCO) to combat the spread of the coronavirus. 

It was eased into a conditional MCO (CMCO) in early May and a recovery MCO in June as case numbers began to fall, while targeted enhanced MCO was applied at areas with local surges. 

READ: Malaysian opposition politicians condemn possible emergency measures amid speculation

However, there has been a sharp rise in cases following the conclusion of the Sabah state election as a result of an outbreak at a Lahad Datu lock-up. Currently, the states of Selangor and Sabah, and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya have been placed under CMCO again.  

Meanwhile, political drama has dragged on in the country, with Mr Anwar claiming he had a convincing majority to take over the government.

On Wednesday, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), which is part of Mr Muhyiddin’s government, called for a “political ceasefire” in order to focus efforts on combatting the plague. 

Previously, the party had been agitating for a fairer redistribution of government positions and ministerial posts as it has the largest number of Members of Parliament in the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. 

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