KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s opposition MPs on Monday (Aug 2) gathered at the capital's Merdeka Square and renewed calls for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign, as they protested his government's decision to postpone the final day of a Parliamentary special sitting.
Political heavyweights and long-time rivals Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad appeared to shelve their differences to appear side-by-side, at the gathering of over 100 lawmakers.
Datuk Seri Anwar, who is also Leader of the Opposition, claimed that Tan Sri Muhyiddin's government no longer commanded the confidence of lawmakers.
“Muhyiddin’s government has fallen today. And I received information – some from other parties have come up with a list requesting to leave the PN line-up. Hence, with the 107 here today, plus them, the government has collapsed,” he said, referring to the Perikatan Nasional government.
Malaysia's Parliament has 222 seats, of which two seats remain vacant. This means a simple majority of 111 MPs is currently required to form government.
Tun Dr Mahathir told reporters, “Even when people condemn (Mr Muhyiddin), he remains shameless and refuses to step down.”
The lawmakers had said they would attend Parliament on Monday despite the deferment, but were prevented from doing so after the police blocked access roads to the building. The group instead made their way to and gathered at nearby Merdeka Square.
According to The Star, the group then marched on foot towards Parliament but were blocked by the police.
Mr Anwar attempted to negotiate with the police to allow them to proceed while several opposition lawmakers chanted "Hidup rakyat, daulat Tuanku" (Long live the people, long live the King).
Mr Anwar later made a short speech before the group dispersed peacefully.
Police later said that everyone who was involved in the gathering, including Members of Parliament, will be called up to assist in their investigations.
The Muhyiddin administration had postponed Monday's sitting, citing Covid-19 cases detected in the building. This comes amid an open row between the Premier and the palace, which led to calls for Mr Muhyiddin to resign.
The opposition has decried the adjournment, to an unspecified date, as “ridiculous”.
In a post on Twitter, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said the suspension of Parliament for two weeks due to Covid-19 was “not a good reason”.
“Screenings involving more than 1,000 people were held in Parliament last Thursday, and the positivity rate is only 1 per cent, thus not a good enough reason to close Parliament for two weeks,” he wrote.
He added that he considered Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah’s statement “that Opposition representatives agreed with the postponement... as misleading”.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) lawmaker Wong Chen wrote on Twitter that he was on his way “to Parliament but all the main roads are blocked. I even tried the back roads. Looks like this back-door government has even locked Parliament’s back door”.
The ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration has been labelled a “back-door government” as the majority of MPs in it are members of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which lost in the 2018 general election after more than 60 years in power.
They returned to power after the country's political crisis last year, when lawmakers defected from the Pakatan Harapan government, depriving it of majority support in Parliament. Mr Muhyiddin, one of the defectors, was sworn into office on March 1, 2020, with the backing of BN's lawmakers.
On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob denied that the Parliamentary postponement was due to politics, insisting that it was based on science and health data.
The Health Ministry had advised that the Parliament sitting and meetings at its premises be deferred for two weeks, starting on July 29.
But Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman noted that “when Parliament sat last Monday, the (Covid-19) positivity rate was 2.9 per cent”. “Which country would (in the first place) reopen a location when the positivity rate is high? But when it was suspended (last Friday), the positivity rate stood at 0.9 per cent. It (the suspension) doesn’t make sense at all.”
The move comes amid an open row between Mr Muhyiddin and the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, over the government’s unilateral decision to cancel emergency ordinances instead of discussing them in Parliament as directed by the King.
Parliament had been effectively suspended since a state of emergency was declared in January, purportedly to tackle surging Covid-19 infections. But the number of cases and deaths has climbed steeply since.
The postponement is seen by government critics as an attempt to scupper calls for the Prime Minister to resign. Mr Muhyiddin has a razor-thin parliamentary majority and has led an unstable ruling coalition since he came to power.