KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah, the King of Malaysia, on Sunday (25 October) opined that there is no need to declare a state of emergency in the country, whether as a whole or in certain parts.
In a statement issued by the Istana Negara (National Palace) today, Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said that the King is concerned about the anxieties of the people due to the sudden spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases and the formation of new clusters.
The King reminded politicians to put an urgent end to any form of “politicking” that may destabilise the nation.
“Al-Sultan Abdullah is also of the opinion that there is no need for Members of Parliament to continue engaging in irresponsible actions that can disrupt the current government’s stability,” said Ahmad Fadil.
The Budget 2021 which is slated to be tabled in Parliament, according to the King, is very important for the people of Malaysia, particularly in facilitating efforts to manage the COVID-19 situation in the country and to rehabilitate the nation’s economy following damage from the pandemic.
Frontline workers, Ahmad Fadil added, are in great need of such allocation to ease their duties and responsibilities.
His Majesty also called on all the people, “irrespective of background and in particular political ideology, to set aside all differences and unite”, said the Comptroller.
They should also “play their respective roles in assisting the government and the authorities in containing the pandemic, both to protect all from the COVID-19 pandemic and to preserve the tranquility of the nation we love,” Ahmad Fadil added, in elaborating on the King’s opinion.
The palace’s statement came after a special meeting between Al-Sultan Abdullah and the Conference of Rulers at the Istana Negara in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur earlier today.
Today’s events followed Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s special cabinet meeting in the administrative city of Putrajaya on Friday (23 October), after which Muhyiddin presented a proposal to Al-Sultan Abdullah at the Istana Abdul Aziz in the King’s state of Pahang.
Legal practitioners and civil society activists earlier expressed concern regarding the possibility of a national emergency following media reports on the matter.
Seven of Malaysia’s former Bar Presidents in a joint statement on Saturday (24 October) stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used to justify declaring a state of emergency, as the situation can be “appropriately battled” using existing laws.
“The effective measures undertaken to overcome the first wave earlier this year are a testament to the absence of any need for any declaration of Emergency,” said Zainur Zakaria, Kuthubul Zaman, Yeo Yang Poh, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Ragunath Kesavan, Christopher Leong and Steven Thiru.
A state of emergency, if sought for the purpose of gaining emergency powers, will “obviously be an unlawful design” that will “disenfranchise and deceive Malaysians” if left unchecked, they warned.
Former Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, in opposing the possibility of declaring a state of emergency at this point, said in a statement on Saturday that doing so would be unconstitutional.
He cited Article 150(1) of the Federal Constitution, which stipulates that the King may issue a Proclamation of Emergency if he is satisfied that a grave emergency that threatens national security, economic life or public order exists.
Noting that the above terms are defined in the Constitution, Thomas drew the distinction between a “grave” emergency and a crisis of a lesser degree.
“It is difficult to find a single rational argument to support a case that there is a “grave emergency” today in Malaysia for whatever reason.
“The true reason is that this Prime Minister is not confident that the Budget of his Minister of Finance will be passed by the Dewan Rakyat when voted upon in early December. That would result in a lack of confidence in his government. They must resign then,” he opined.
By seeking to declare a state of emergency just to remain in office, Thomas said, the Prime Minister’s “private interests are in conflict with his public duty”.
State of emergency may have adverse consequences to economy
The former A-G also questioned why Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Aziz, a former banker, did not advise the Prime Minister on “the grave consequences to the economy” in the event that an emergency is declared.
“The rating agencies will immediately down-grade our ratings, which means that borrowing costs will become more expensive and perhaps even more difficult.
“The share market will plunge, the Ringgit will plummet and business confidence shattered. All these predictable consequences would be self-inflicted solely to allow one man to remain Prime Minister,” Thomas said.
Youth-led movement for democratic reforms Undi 18 co-founder Tharma Pillai in a string of tweets on Saturday similarly cautioned against declaring a state of emergency at this stage, branding it “economic suicide”.
Tharma also referenced a statement made by former sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad managing director Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim.
Penulisan Tan Sri Sheriff (Bekas MD Khazanah) ni dapat memperjelaskan musibah besar yang akan berlaku pada ekonomi negara jika kita mengumumkan Darurat.
Korang ni ingat Darurat ni main2 ke? This is not a gencatan politik. This is economic suicide. pic.twitter.com/TRSQMoBICo
— Tharma Pillai (@TharmaPillai) October 24, 2020
Mohd Sheriff posited that Malays–from the rulers to “ordinary” ones–are greatly invested in their savings in funds created by government bodies or government-linked companies.
A state of emergency, he added, will affect the dividend income of pensioners from their Employers’ Provident Fund, Amanah Saham Bumiputera and Amanah Saham Nasional accounts.
“If the stock market collapses, they can’t pay good dividends to the account holders,” said Mohd Sheriff.