Malaysians Bewildered, in Limbo Over Status of Revoked Emergency Laws

Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
2021-07-28
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Malaysians Bewildered, in Limbo Over Status of Revoked Emergency Laws A police officer checks a driver’s papers at a roadblock amid a COVID-19 lockdown during the national emergency, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia May 10, 2021.
[Reuters]

The Malaysian government’s announcement Monday that it had revoked emergency ordinances days earlier, on July 21, has caused utter confusion among citizens and lawmakers alike, leaving many to wonder whether enforcements under these laws after that date are still valid.

Parliamentarians and ordinary Malaysians have also expressed disbelief that the government said it would not explain the issue until Aug. 2 – the last day of the ongoing five-day parliamentary session and the first one this year.

On Wednesday, an MP from the Democratic Action Party asked in the legislature why the government needed to wait until next Monday to get an explanation about the ordinances.

“Surely, you are aware Parliament is only meeting for five days this time. Why isn’t there an urgency to hear the matter? Why do we want to delay the matter further?” lawmaker M. Kulasegaran, a former Human Resource minister, said.

“The [Law] minister is sitting over there. The Prime Minister is here. Just stand up and answer.”

‘Stupidest thing I’ve seen’

Malaysians who have been closely monitoring the session have taken to social media to ask why the country wasn’t told on July 21 that the emergency laws had been revoked or that a nationwide emergency would not be extended beyond its original expiry date of Aug. 1.

“How can the Emergency Ordinances revoked for five days and Malaysians have no clue about it?” Malaysia Joshua Michael said via Twitter on Tuesday.

Another Malaysian said via Twitter that the government seemed to be taking a national issue such as this one “lightly.”

“Regarding the revocation of the emergency ordinance[s], that is the stupidest thing I’ve seen in parliament. They won’t answer even the simplest question even though it is the most important thing,” Firdaus Zamuri said.

The government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin issued six ordinances since the emergency was imposed and parliament suspended in January. These include a law that raised fines for violating COVID-19 health protocols, and a controversial one that criminalized “fake news” about the emergency.

Fahmi Fadzil, a lawmaker from the opposition People’s Justice Party on Tuesday described how the confusion over the emergency ordinances would play out.

He said that more than 2,200 fines were issued between July 21 and 25 for breaches of the lockdown, and most of them were for more than 1,000 ringgit (U.S. $236), according to the ordinance that said the penalty could go up to 10,000 ringgit.

“The people are wondering if they have a 10,000 ringgit compound [fine] issued from July 21 onwards, are they required to attend court? Should they plead guilty?

“Most of these compounds cost more than 1,000 ringgit. If we wait until Monday, what will happen? That is why we cannot wait till Monday.”

UMNO ‘not aware’ of ordinances’ revocation

Confounding the issue further is that the revocation of the six ordinances has not been published in the Gazette, or the government’s official journal, seven days after the government said these law were ended.

That is why, in the opinion of constitutional expert and lawyer New Sin Yew, the six ordinances are still in force, because there is no proof that they have been revoked or that the king has been informed about it.

“First, there is no evidence that the King has revoked the Ordinances. The King must act on the advice of the Cabinet, and he must be presented with the revocation to agree with the same. The Cabinet cannot act on its own and bypass the King,” New told BenarNews.

“Second, there has been no publication of the purported revocation in the Gazette.”

Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the president of the United Malays National Organization – the largest party in the ruling coalition – said Wednesday that his party did not know about the revocations ahead of time.

“UMNO is not aware that the Emergency Ordinances have been revoked since July 21, 2021 even though there are UMNO lawmakers who are part of the federal government,” Zahid said in a statement.

The cabinet has nine ministers from UMNO, including Annuar Musa and Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri, who would have attended the July 21 cabinet meeting when the government said the revocations were decided.

For his part, Annuar confused parliamentarians even more with a tweet on Tuesday that said, among other things, “what is in the process of revocation is the ordinance[s].”

This implied that the emergency laws were still in force.

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