Malaysian King meets party chiefs to discuss crises

PM Muhyiddin first to have audience with ruler yesterday, and Anwar was next

A string of Malaysian political leaders had separate audiences with the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
A string of Malaysian political leaders had separate audiences with the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin arrived at the palace early yesterday, in what appeared to be the first of a series of audiences that the King is granting to party chiefs to discuss Malaysia's Covid-19 and political crises.

However, the palace clarified later that the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, met the Premier for their regular pre-Cabinet briefing on Wednesdays, and Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president, left after an hour.

"The pre-Cabinet meeting is among weekly activities or main routine for Sultan Abdullah to discuss and exchange views with the Prime Minister concerning matters and issues relating to government," the palace said in a short statement on its Facebook page.

It is unclear if Mr Muhyiddin will meet the King, who is also ruler of Pahang, again later.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was next, the first among opposition party heads who had audiences yesterday, although former premier Mahathir Mohamad's meeting is slated for today.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who is Parti Keadilan Rakyat president, said he pleaded for the King not to extend the state of emergency due to expire on Aug 1, as the move has not helped poorer Malaysians.

"I gave my view that continuing the emergency will cause losses to the country, and does not aid in tackling the Covid-19 problem. All the steps that can be implemented do not need for an emergency to be in place." Mr Anwar added that the King has also been consulting experts on the pandemic.

Asked by reporters if there were discussions about forming a new government, he said: "That question does not arise at this point."

Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, whose party has the most MPs, told reporters after his audience that his discussion with the King mostly revolved around financial aid to see the public through the outbreak.

Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu met the sovereign next, while leaders of Sarawak's ruling coalition will speak to the constitutional monarch via videoconference on Monday.

The government had said the emergency proclaimed in January was to fight the pandemic, yet the nation is in the throes of another lockdown after record highs in cases and deaths in recent weeks.

Opponents of Mr Muhyiddin have called for Parliament, which last sat in December to pass this year's budget, to be reopened so the worsening outbreak - which in May alone claimed nearly half of Malaysia's total pandemic death toll of 3,000 - can be addressed.

The emergency suspends the requirement for Parliament to reconvene within six months of its last sitting and also secures the Muhyiddin administration in power.

A member of the opposition's committee lobbying for an end to the emergency, Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan, had earlier said the meetings with the King would be on "uniting the country".

The palace also said yesterday that the nine state monarchs will meet next Wednesday for a "special discussion" on efforts to combat the pandemic. This comes amid speculation that the King is seeking new solutions to address the outbreak, including a bipartisan body or one involving senior civil servants similar to the National Operations Council, which was in place for two years during the last national emergency from 1969.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysian King meets party chiefs to discuss crises'. Subscribe