Could Cabinet declare ‘economic emergency’? Reports suggest morning meeting discussed options amid Covid-19 surges, political instability

Straits Times quoted several anonymous sources saying today’s meeting was to discuss several proposals on dealing with the upcoming Budget 2021 tabling next month while the country is grappling with a third wave of Covid-19 infections and challenges to the legitimacy of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government helmed by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. — Bernama pic
Straits Times quoted several anonymous sources saying today’s meeting was to discuss several proposals on dealing with the upcoming Budget 2021 tabling next month while the country is grappling with a third wave of Covid-19 infections and challenges to the legitimacy of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government helmed by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — Speculation is rife that the government may declare an “economic emergency” following this morning’s Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya.

Singapore paper Straits Times quoted several anonymous sources saying today’s meeting was to discuss several proposals on dealing with the upcoming Budget 2021 tabling next month while the country is grappling with a third wave of Covid-19 infections and challenges to the legitimacy of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government helmed by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

One of these options was purportedly for the government to declare an “economic emergency”, to thwart the possibility of snap polls being forced and to provide more time for the ruling PN to rein in the infections without being distracted by political instability.

“It will not be similar to the curfews and military presence we had after the 1969 race riots.

“Instead, normal life under the movement control order will continue without politics getting in the way of dealing with a health crisis,” one of the unnamed sources, said to have knowledge of these options, told ST.

Proclamation of an emergency would result in the suspension of Parliament, the executive branch of government would be granted special powers deemed necessary for public security.

The Singapore paper claimed that the Malay Rulers have been “made aware” of the possibility of special powers being conferred to the Muhyiddin administration.

Malaysia as a whole has been under emergency only four times — the most notable being the bloody race riots of 1969. Prior to that, emergency was declared during colonial British rule of the Malay peninsula in 1948 during the fight with the communists.

According to the Singapore paper, other options for the government would be to table a “unity budget” to tackle the more immediate threats posed by Covid-19 that have also crippled the economy. 

Separately, local daily The Star citing its own anonymous sources said other proposals at today’s Cabinet meeting could see the introduction of a specific law to stop the surge of Covid-19 infections.

“We were told there that expenditures will be allocated according to need,” The Star reported one anonymous source saying.

National news agency Bernama reported Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun and Head of the Armed Forces General Tan Sri Affendi Buang being driven into Putra Perdana this morning ahead of the Cabinet meeting.

*Editor's note: An earlier version erroneously stated emergency declared in Malaysia only once and has since been corrected. Malay Mail apologises for the error.

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