KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah on Saturday (Oct 24) advised his subjects “to stay calm, not to panic and be patient” as the monarch prepared to meet other Malay rulers on a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to impose emergency measures.
“Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah will hold a meeting with the Malay rulers at Istana Negara as soon as possible to discuss and refine the suggestions proposed by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin,” palace comptroller Indera Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement.
It also said that the King “very much understands the need for continuity in the country’s administration to battle the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The Star newspaper reported that the informal meeting of the rulers will be held on Sunday at 2.30pm.
It has been a tumultuous two days after Mr Muhyiddin met the King to seek his consent to invoke emergency powers.
Earlier, on Friday morning, Mr Muhyiddin chaired a special Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya to discuss the proclamation of an “economic emergency” which would ensure that political upheaval did not jeopardise government spending to curb the Covid-19 situation which continues to deteriorate sharply in the country with a record high of 1,228 new cases on Saturday.
Mr Muhyiddin faces the prospect of a no-confidence vote when Parliament convenes on Nov 6 to discuss the national budget.
There are fears that the prime minister, who only had a razor-thin majority of two in the previous parliamentary sitting, could lose the confidence vote, leaving the budget in limbo. Furthermore this could trigger a new general election in the middle of a raging pandemic, an option both sides of the political divide are keen to avoid.
An emergency declaration could suspend Parliament which would pre-empt any attempts at undermining his Perikatan Nasional government.
Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa has defended the emergency proposal, asking what other legal provision would allow an election in Malaysia to be delayed amid a pandemic.
He was responding to criticism from the opposition and civil society, some of whom have denounced the government’s move as undemocratic and an attempt by the Muhyiddin administration to stay in power.
In a posting on Twitter, he claimed that most Malaysians did not want to go to the polls, having seen how last month’s state election in Sabah triggered record numbers of infections and deaths.
In a separate Facebook post, Mr Annuar said that “various parties are threatening to topple the Prime Minister through the Parliament sitting next month.”
“If that happens, the PM can dissolve Parliament and a general election must be held.”
National polls are not due until 2023, but a political crisis was triggered earlier this month when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed that he secured a “formidable majority” in parliament.
Former premier Mahathir Mohamad has also spoken out against the emergency move, saying that there has no breakdown of law and order to justify such a declaration.
“Countries with more severe Covid-19 problems have not declared an emergency for the whole country but only for affected areas,” he said.
A group of lawyers comprising former Bar presidents said declaring an emergency would be a “nightmarish” error that would plunge Malaysia into one of its “darkest” days.