KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is opposed to any extension of the current state of Emergency in Malaysia, says party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi after an audience with King Al-Sultan Abdullah on Friday (11 June).
Ahmad Zahid told reporters outside the National Palace here today that he had mooted the prospect during his hour-long audience with Sultan Abdullah “to ensure the country’s democratic system is defended”.
“It was obvious that even without the emergency, the government could previously handle matters related to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
While calling for an end to the Emergency, the Bagan Datuk Member of Parliament (MP) also proposed the resumption of Parliament sittings.
“UMNO believes that Parliament is an important official platform to voice the people’s concerns (on matters such) such as loan moratoriums, i-Sinar and i-Lestari 2.0 and other forms of assistance for everyone,” he said.
Ahmad Zahid is one of several politicians who have openly spoken up against the state of Emergency and the suspension of Parliament, the latter of which is enabled by the former.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim in January filed a suit against Muhyiddin and the federal government, on the grounds that the latter had allegedly advised the nation’s King to suspend Parliament sittings during the state of Emergency.
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.
Anwar was also one of the politicians who have met with the King this week. He was granted an audience with Sultan Abdullah with Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng — all component parties of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose Parti Pejuang Tanah Air political party has yet to be registered, also had a meeting with the King, during which he proposed the setting up of a National Operations Council (Mageran) in the present circumstances.
Mageran was set up after the 13 May racial riots in 1969 to restore the rule of law and order in the country.
Several political leaders have since challenged Dr Mahathir’s proposal to establish Mageran.
Ahmad Zahid told reporters that the idea of Mageran should have been brought forth at the start of the Emergency period.
He added that he did not discuss the Mageran issue with the King.
“I feel it is something normal outside the scope of the existing situation because the Emergency is supposed to cover it but it has been used to achieve other purposes,” said Ahmad Zahid.
In a joint statement on Friday, Anwar, Mohamad Sabu, and Lim said that their objection is grounded in their belief that for a Parliamentary democracy to truly function, the Emergency must be lifted and Parliament must be allowed to reconvene.
“The solution to the people’s problems in relation to COVID-19, the economy and even politics requires a democracy that functions well, and the best avenue to hear out their grievances and to find solutions to them is Parliament,” they said.
Klang MP Charles Santiago also called for the end of the Emergency and for Parliament sittings to resume via both physical and virtual means.
In a tweet on Friday, the DAP politician wrote: “Don’t make a mockery of parliamentary democracy. End emergency, reconvene Parliament via physical & virtual sessions.”
Santiago also expressed his objection against Mageran in the same tweet, saying: “No to NOC.”
Don’t make a mockery of parliamentary democracy. End emergency, reconvene Parliament via physical & virtual sessions. No to NOC.
— Charles Santiago (@mpklang) June 11, 2021
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in March defended the Emergency Proclamation, stating that it is not a tool for him to cling on to his position but a pre-emptive move in managing the COVID-19 situation in the country.
The Emergency would be lifted earlier than its scheduled end on 1 August if the government is able to control the pandemic situation in the country, he added.
“If the independent special committee says [the Emergency] can be put to an end earlier, I will just follow that. We also do not want to be under restriction by such regulations forever,” said Muhyiddin.
Sultan Abdullah is slated to discuss the Emergency and the COVID-19 situation with eight other rulers in a special conference next Wednesday (16 June).
The King’s succession of physical meetings with political leaders this week is set to end on Friday. He is slated to have a virtual meeting with Sarawak’s ruling party Gabungan Parti Sarawak on Monday.