KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim on Monday filed a suit against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the government, on the grounds that the latter had allegedly advised the nation’s King to suspend Parliament sittings during the state of emergency.
Bukit Gelugor Member of Parliament (MP) and practising lawyer Ramkarpal Singh said in a statement on Tuesday (26 January) that Anwar had applied for leave for judicial review yesterday at the Kuala Lumpur High Court under his capacity as opposition leader in the Dewan Rakyat, the Lower House of the Malaysian Parliament.
“Among reliefs sought in that application is a declaration from court that the Prime Minister’s advice to the King to suspend Parliament during the period of the emergency proclaimed recently is against the law and the federal Constitution,” said Ramkarpal.
Ramkarpal, who is also the Democratic Action Party’s legal bureau chairman, stressed that the application does not intend to challenge the Proclamation of Emergency itself.
Anwar’s suit was filed by Ramkarpal’s firm Karpal Singh & Co.
Malay Mail reported that in a separate statement filed in court, Anwar had argued that the suspension of Parliament under Emergency powers blocks Parliament’s freedom to ensure transparent debates, government accountability and proper checks and balances on the executive branch of the government in making and enacting laws during the pandemic.
Among other reasons, Anwar also argued in his application that Muhyiddin’s advice to the King is illegal and procedurally improper, given that Muhyiddin no longer commands majority support in the Dewan Rakyat and thus lacks the mandate to offer such advice.
Anwar also argued that Muhyiddin as prime minister had failed to consider other alternatives to manage the pandemic such as the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders.
Through the Standing Orders, the Speaker of Parliament has the discretion to permit alternative procedures or special Parliament sittings to expedite the passing of emergency legislation in the public interest.
Other than Anwar’s suit, Malay Mail noted that there are two other legal challenges against the Malaysian government regarding the state of emergency.
In October last year, lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar filed a constitutional challenge against the government, which covered matters such as whether the King has unfettered discretion to not declare an Emergency.
The Malaysian government is seeking to have the challenge struck out by the court, stating that Syed Iskandar’s suit is “scandalous, frivolous and vexatious”, and that it is allegedly an “abuse of the court’s process”.
Earlier this month on 18 January, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, a former member of Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, similarly filed a constitutional challenge against Muhyiddin and the government.
Among the issues raised in his suit were on whether a prime minister who no longer has the majority support of MPs in the Dewan Rakyat can still advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to proclaim an Emergency, or whether such a prime minister can suspend Parliament sittings.
“Civilian government will continue to function”: Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin
Sultan Abdullah assented to the state of emergency on 11 January.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who addressed the nation later the same day, said that the state of emergency declared by the King is “not a military coup”.
A curfew will not be enforced, and “a civilian government will continue to function”, he added.
During the state of emergency, Parliament will not be in session and will be suspended until consented to by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. No elections, whether general election or by-elections, will be held during the period.
The courts will carry out their duties as usual during the state of emergency.
“The judiciary will continue to be the beacon of justice in our country, and I would never interfere with the business of the courts,” said Muhyiddin.
Declaring state of emergency “removes the last vestige of democratic rights” for the people of Malaysia, says former premier Mahathir Mohamad
With the Emergency Proclamation, the “minority” Government has “now gained absolute power to rule” under Article 11 of the Emergency Ordinance 2021, warned Muhyiddin’s predecessor Mahathir Mohamad on 18 January.
Article 11 grants the Prime Minister and Cabinet that were already in power before the state of emergency continuous power to govern, including power to suspend Parliamentary sessions and disabling the dissolution of Parliament during the period.
“Clearly, with the proclamation of a state of emergency, the Parliament elected by the people has lost its role in the governance of this country. The Prime Minister now has full authority to rule the country on his own,” said Dr Mahathir.
On top of that, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet “cannot be questioned”, as all of the actions that are taking place “is done is in the name of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong”.
Dubbing the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government as a “backdoor” one, the nonagenarian said that PN has lost its majority and therefore the right to rule Malaysia.
In Malaysia, ‘Langkah Sheraton’ or ‘Sheraton Move’ saw Muhyiddin taking the mantle of Prime Minister from Dr Mahathir following a power vacuum left by the latter’s resignation from the post. The event also catalysed the collapse of the PH government.
However, many criticised Muhyiddin’s appointment. The hashtag #NotMyPM topped Twitter trends at the time.
The ‘Sheraton Move’ derived its name from the Petaling Jaya hotel in which a meeting among leaders from the Malay-centric Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia — which is now led by Muhyiddin — and PKR attempting to form an alliance with Umno and other parties in a bid to establish a new government.
PH had earlier wrested power from Najib Razak’s BN administration in 2018, particularly after the former premier became mired in controversy over his alleged abuse of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, among others.
BN governed Malaysia for 61 years since the nation’s independence prior to the 2018 general election.
The political imbroglio continued when UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced on 30 July last year that the party will not be a part of PN but will continue to support the current ruling government.