Nationwide emergency disproportionate and may invite constitutional crisis, Malaysian Bar warns

A general view of the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya, September 24, 2020. — Reuters pic
A general view of the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya, September 24, 2020. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — The Malaysian Bar today urged Putrajaya to reconsider its purported proposal to seek emergency powers to handle the third wave of Covid-19, saying such a move would be disproportionate.

In a statement, it said that declaring an emergency may result in a constitutional crisis, adding that Malaysia already has sufficient measures in place to combat the pandemic, such as the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

“Declaring a nationwide emergency is disproportionate as there are already standard operating procedures in place.

“The Malaysian Bar is concerned that an emergency would cause a plunge in confidence for individuals and businesses alike,” its president Salim Bashir said.  

It added that the public now needs stability and focus on public health instead of emergency laws.  

“Any move to declare an emergency will be perceived as a regressive approach on the rule of law and parliamentary democracy. The Malaysian Bar is also deeply troubled over the threat of a potential constitutional crisis should a state of emergency be declared,” it said.

It also expressed its confidence that Putrajaya will be able to handle the current situation and find prudent solutions without resorting to declaring an emergency.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and several other government leaders attended an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at the latter’s Istana Abdulaziz in Kuantan.

However, no announcement was made following the audience.

Speculation had been rife that the Perikatan Nasional government is seeking to declare a state of emergency as Malaysia struggles to contain the spike in Covid-19 infection that has also hurt the economy.

Reports have so far suggested that Putrajaya is seeking a dubious so-called state of “partial emergency”, also dubbed as “economic, health, or political emergency”.

It is unclear what the emergency powers being sought are at the moment as the breadth and scope under a state of emergency are far ranging.

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