Malaysia’s King, Rulers: Reconvene Parliament Soon, End Emergency in August

Hadi Azmi and Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
2021-06-16
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Malaysia’s King, Rulers: Reconvene Parliament Soon, End Emergency in August A limousine (center) carrying Al Aminul Karim Sultan Sallehuddin Sultan Badlishah, the ruler of Malaysia’s Kedah state, approaches the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur ahead of a meeting there of the Council of Rulers, June16, 2021.
S.Mahfuz/BenarNews

Malaysia’s suspended parliament must reconvene as soon as possible, the country’s king said on Wednesday, while the powerful Council of Rulers demanded that a current national state of emergency not be extended beyond its Aug. 1 expiry date.

After a four-hour meeting the king and his fellow rulers agreed that parliament, which was suspended five months ago, must sit again soon, the National Palace said in a statement greeted with approval from many political leaders.

After reviewing opinions from a variety of people, “his majesty was of the opinion that parliament sessions should be held as soon as possible,” the palace said.

“This is to enable the emergency ordinances and the national recovery plan to be debated by the members of the House of Representatives.”

The meeting of the Council of Rulers took place after King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah held a series of meetings with leading politicians from across the spectrum, during which many lawmakers said it was vital to reconvene parliament.

The national legislature last sat on Dec. 14, 2020 and was suspended on Jan. 12, 2021 when the monarch, at Prime Minister Muyhiddin Yassin’s urging, declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Muhyiddin said that parliament could meet in September at the earliest, if new COVID-19 infections fell to below 2,000 a day.

The Council of Rulers, which comprises the king and fellow sultans who rule nine of Malaysia’s 13 states, as well as the governors of the remaining four states, all agreed that the state of emergency, should not be extended beyond Aug. 1, a separate statement from the council said.

“There is no need to place the country under the state of emergency after 1 Aug, 2021,” said the statement signed by the Keeper of the Rulers Seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad.

“The rulers believe in the importance of respecting the mechanism of checks and balances between the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches to guarantee an administration that is fair, with integrity and accountable to the people especially on financial matters and national spending.”

‘Malay rulers’ wisdom and concern’

Many MPs and citizens had questioned why an emergency was needed to contain the pandemic when the government was already resorting to lockdowns of varying degrees to stem COVID-19 cases.

Lawmakers also criticized parliament being suspended at a time when they said the legislature was needed the most. They alleged that Muhyiddin, who heads an unelected government that came to office in March 2020, was attempting to hang on to power after they said he had lost the support of his razor-thin parliamentary majority.

Opposition leader and lawmaker Anwar Ibrahim hailed the rulers’ statements on Wednesday that called for a parliament sitting soon.

“Respect to the king and other Malay rulers for the decision,” Anwar said on Twitter.

“I am waiting the next move by the government led by Muhyiddin Yassin to reconvene the parliament as soon as possible.”

Approval of the king’s views also came from Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, lawmaker and president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which is a member of Muhyiddin’s ruling coalition.

“UMNO respects and fully supports his majesty’s point of view that the parliament need to reconvene as soon as possible,” Zahid said, echoing the views of his party, which has fallen out with Muhyiddin and his Bersatu party,

“This clearly shows the king and Malay rulers’ wisdom and concern for the people’s anxiety over the crisis that has befallen the country.”

Malaysia until recently was in the throes of a fourth wave of the pandemic, after having curbed new infections for most of last year. Cases are still high, but not soaring like they did a few weeks ago.

The country reported 5,150 new infections on Wednesday, taking the total number of cases to almost 700,000. With 73 virus-related deaths in 24 hours, pandemic fatalities rose to 4,142.

My-King-PM.jpg

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (right) talks with King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah in Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 28, 2020. [Handout from National Palace via AFP]

Muhyiddin ‘a lame duck prime minister’

The royals’ “firm and direct” statements indicate they are not happy with the emergency because it has not lowered COVID-19 cases, said Tunku Mohar Tunku Mokhtar, an analyst at the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

“The fact that they come out strongly with the view that the emergency should not extend beyond Aug. 1 clearly shows their displeasure towards the current state of emergency,” Mokhtar told BenarNews.

“In sum, the monarchs have clearly expressed their concern about the failure of the government in ensuring the well-being of the people.”

Muhyiddin might still try to delay reopening parliament, said Bridget Welsh, a political scientist from the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Malaysia.

“Muhyiddin is a lame-duck prime minister, but will do everything he can to try to reverse this,” Welsh told BenarNews.

Some in his cabinet have already begun to try.

Soon after the Council of Rulers issued their statement, Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan, who is also minister in charge of parliament, aired his views on what the rulers meant by “as soon as possible.”

“Parliamentary session should be done as soon as possible, but the king did not say in this month or that month,” he said at an online panel discussion on his party PAS’s website.

“We are now at the end of June, it’s very near [to September], it will definitely happen.”

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