Malaysia Dateline

The emergency was a failure. So why continue?

The emergency ordinance which was enacted to give the government absolute powers has failed in its objective to get a handle on Covid-19.

Malaysia has already hit over 4,000 cases last week, and it’s not a stretch to say that with this resurgence in infections, the threat of a possible fourth wave is very possible and we could be looking at another full on MCO.

One can only imagine what that would do to Malaysia’s already suffering economy. With unemployment skyrocketing, businesses closing down, and entire industries on life support, MCO 3.0 could quite possibly be devastating.

Therefore the argument that the emergency has been a failure – at least in the economic sense, has a very strong basis. After all, PM Muhyiddin himself has admitted that the country is running low on funds and estimates almost RM 600bn has been spent on various stimulus packages to help the economy during Covid-19.

And while the stimulus packages may have cushioned the blow, ultimately throwing money at a financial crisis without a strong plan of action is simply not sufficient to address the huge economic trouble the country is in.

One of the reasons why there wasn’t a good plan in place, was the government’s unwillingness to engage “the whole of society” approach in solving the economic crisis.

Parliament has been closed for a significant amount of time, and there has been a severe lack of Parliamentary oversight with almost everything Covid-19 related. Most of the government’s actions have taken place in a silo.

Opposition politicians have joined the throng of Malaysians who been calling to end the emergency, citing unchecked spending and possible abuse of the nation’s coffers as the main reason.

For example, the recent announcement of the government’s plans to tap into the National Trust Fund (KWAN) reportedly for the procurement of vaccines and related expenditures.

The “Tamat Darurat” campaign has close to 50k signatures and the opposition politicians behind it have even managed to secure an audience with the King to share their views.

Former prime minister Mahathir stated that it was crucial for the king to hear the rakyat’s views about the emergency.

“It is quite clear that a large number of Malays are now angry because they are suffering due to the emergency,” he said.

He may be right. There has been growing frustrations in particular with the emergency ordinance which has been characterized “as a step backwards” in Malaysia’s democracy.

The public outcry over the Emergency Ordinance 2021 can be separated into three distinct issues.

Firstly the exorbitant fines for those who break Covid-19 SOP, like in the recent cases of the hawkers who were fined RM 50,000 for operating after hours in Kelantan.

Secondly, the double standards being practiced by the government. One notable example,is the Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Edmund Santhara Kumar who went on holiday to New Zealand with the approval of the prime minister, while the entire country was on lockdown.

Lastly, the Anti-Fake News Act that was repealed in 2019 by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, has seen new life under the emergency ordinance.

“Malaysia’s new ‘fake news’ law, which was conveniently ushered into law using emergency powers and therefore bypassing democratic checks and balances, represents a severe threat to journalism and free expression,” IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.

The PN government has not emerged as heroes but rather villains that have been unceremoniously dubbed on twitter as #kerajaangagal, #kerajaanzalim and #antaraduadarjat which translates to failing government, cruel government, and the practice of double standards.

The emergency and the concurrent emergency ordinance has played a role in making a difficult situation even worse. Failing at all angles, it might be time for Muhyiddin to cut his losses, call for an end to the emergency and reopen Parliament.