[PRESS STATEMENT] Don’t Willfully Undermine a Democratic Malaysia

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We, the undersigned members of the CSO Platform for Reform, are concerned with the news of a possible declaration of a state of emergency by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Oct 23.

The timing and political context of the announcement cannot come at a worse time. Just this week, Malaysia has recorded the highest number of reported cases in a day, the largest number of Covid-19 hospitalization, and the highest number of deaths reported in a day. At the same time, the people of Sabah and Selangor are still struggling with the constant fear of the pandemic alongside the uncertain and constantly changing requirements for work and economic activities.

Malaysians are not deluded by the suggestion that a state of emergency is required to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The movement control order, despite its difficulty and challenge for the country, has proven to the world that Malaysia is able to fight off Covid-19 with the existing legal and enforcement mechanisms.

The only failure in Malaysia’s struggle against Covid-19 is the legal immunity enjoyed by politicians when they flout restrictions imposed to curb the transmission of Covid-19.

With clear evidence that a state of emergency is not necessary for combatting Covid-19, only one rational explanation remains in the minds of most Malaysians. The move by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government will be interpreted and seen as political maneuvering to secure control over the country for the survival of the administration and its leadership.

A state of emergency now would allow the prime minister and his administration an avenue to thwart the challenge posed against its leadership in the Parliament and avoid the Parliament’s scrutiny and debate with regards to the merits of the national budget that would be tabled in the upcoming Parliament session.

When the prime minister survived the vote to replace the speaker in the Parliament by 111 to 109, it, at the very least, gave a degree of legitimacy to the administration. If the administration was to declare a state of emergency in a bid to evade the vote of no confidence in Parliament, the notion that PN is an illegitimate government will be entrenched and derail any and all effort for a possible political compromise between all parties.

Furthermore, a budget passed by the current administration without the scrutiny and insight of parliamentarians and by extension the public will unlikely be one that is able to best serve the economic needs of the nation. A prolific and robust debate in Parliament based on the interest of the nation is the only way to ensure that the proposed budget is one that can address the economic needs of the country and ensure that Malaysia would come out of the global pandemic stronger.

The declaration of emergency will serve as another act of betrayal by Muhyiddin and his political allies against Malaysians. Only this time, it would not only have betrayed the trust of the people in the 14th general election, but it would also betray the sacrifice of the front liners who risked personal safety in order to protect the interest and wellbeing of the nation.

Malaysians from all walks of life have sacrificed to carry Malaysia where she is today. Frontliners have sacrificed to keep Covid-19 at bay. PN cannot be allowed to willfully undermine all that we have sacrificed for. A democratic Malaysia governed by the rule of law is what we fought for and must be what remains regardless of the political disagreement Malaysians may have with one another.

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