Emergency declaration unjustified as general election avoidable, groups say

A man watches a live telecast of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's speech in Kuala Lumpur January 12, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A man watches a live telecast of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's speech in Kuala Lumpur January 12, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The Proclamation of Emergency to suspend legislatures and elections in Malaysia was excessive and possibly abusive, said several non-governmental organisations.

In a joint statement, Bersih 2.0, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia said the move undermined democracy in the country.

They noted reports suggesting that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s government has lost majority support in Parliament.

“Since mandatory elections can be conducted safely as demonstrated by many countries, and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has discretion not to dissolve Parliament mid-term, the suspension of elections with an emergency declaration is unjustified.

“If this is indeed to prevent elections, then the discretionary royal power to withhold consent to the prime minister's request of dissolution is effectively removed,” the groups said in a statement.

Under the Emergency declaration, Parliament and state legislative assemblies will not convene until such a time as decided by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

This means that lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels, will not be able to make new laws or change any existing law.

The group argued that despite not having a majority support, the ruling government could also still continue to function by negotiating a confidence and supply agreements with the opposition in order to continue until the general election when it is due. 

They suggested that the proclamation could be a disguised attempt to prop up the Muhyiddin administration.

“If this is the true underlying reason, the declaration of a national emergency is not only an overkill but an abuse of executive power that places the country at great peril in the midst of the worst health and economic crisis this country has ever faced.”

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah consented to the proclamation of Emergency in the country until August 1, or until the current wave of Covid-19 infections subside.

The Emergency was invoked under Article 150(1) of the Federal Constitution which states that the Agong can call it if he is “satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened”.

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