Malaysia Dateline

Muhyiddin should not move the goalpost

Malaysia seems to moving towards a serious constitutional crisis.

The Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, should not move the goalpost from his national telecast on January 12 that the Special Independent Committee and not the Cabinet or the designated Minister will advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong on whether the emergency declared on January 11 will be extended on August 1, 2021.

In his January 12 national telecast, Muhyiddin announced an Independent Special Committee to advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong “whether a major emergency still exist to continue with the period of Emergency Proclamation or terminate the Proclamation earlier than the date designated”.

This is a solemn commitment by the Prime Minister that the question whether Emergency Proclamation would be extended on August 1 would not be exercised under Article 40(1) which provides that the Yang di Pertuan Agong shall act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, but by the advice of the Independent Special Committee established under the 2021 Emergency Ordinance.

The Muhyiddin Cabinet is now estopped from insisting that it is the Cabinet’s responsibility to advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong whether or not the emergency should be extended, as argued by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law), Takiyuddin Hassan, yesterday.

The Prime Minister has given his word that this constitutional function will now be exercised by the Special Independent Committee – which was probably why it was headed by the former Chief Justice, Arifin Zakaria – and the Prime Minister will be accused of being untrustworthy and not keeping his word if he now dishonour his commitment in his national telecast of January 12, 2021.

I agree with the Health director-general, Noor Hisham Abdullah that the King has the discretion whether to extend the emergency based on the advice of Special Independent Committee as the Prime Minister had made this very clear in his January 12 national telecast.

As the Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker, Azalina Othman tweeted last night, the government will be shifting the goalposts on when the emergency will end if Takiyuddin insists that the Cabinet or the designated Minister will advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong on whether or not to extend the emergency.

As Azalina rightly asked: “If that’s the case (that the cabinet will advise the king), what’s the point of forming an Independent Special Committee to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Section 2(1) of the Emergency Ordinance 2021?”

In actual fact, the events of the last five months of the emergency have validated the legitimate doubts whether a proclamation of emergency and the suspension of Parliament and State Assemblies were the proper solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike countries which have not declared any emergency, new Covid-19 cases and Covid-19 deaths have continued to soar until there is a two-week extension of MCO 3.0.

On November 18, 2020, we ranked No. 85 among countries with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases.

Some seven months later, with 652,204 Covid-19 cases yesterday, we overtook Austria and is now ranked No. 38 among countries with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases.

China, which topped the world at the start of the pandemic, is now No. 98 with 91,394 Covid-19 cases.

For daily cases per million of population yesterday, we beat the world’s top 37 nations with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases except for four countries in South America – Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile.

So far, 3,844 people have died of Covid-19 in Malaysia – 3,293 deaths during the five months of the emergency since January 11, 2021 or seven times the fatalities in the five months of emergency as compared to 551 deaths in the first 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic before the emergency.

In terms of daily deaths per million population yesterday, we lost out to six of 37 countries which topped the world with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases – Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Romania.

There were 76 Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia yesterday compared to 12 deaths in United Kingdom which had a peak daily increase of 1,823 Covid-19 deaths on January 20, 2021.

It is clear that that proclamation of emergency to combat the Covid-19 pandemic is a dismal failure, and horror of horrors, there is now a suggestion that Parliament should not convene until Malaysia achieves herd immunity against Covid-19 – especially as this may never happen.

Many lawyers are of the view that it is unconstitutional to suspend Parliament as it will be unconstitutional to suspend the Judiciary, because the Malaysian Constitution is founded on the doctrine of separation of powers.

It is time to return to constitutionality – to uphold the doctrine of separation of powers and Malaysia being founded on constitutional monarchy based on parliamentary democracy.

Parliament and the State Assemblies should be convened immediately to restore public trust and confidence in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, end all Covid-19 SOP flip-flops, U-turns and double-standards and launch a national mobilisation of a “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against Covid-19 pandemic.
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Media Statement by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, June 13, 2021.