Malaysia's state of emergency: Elections once Covid-19 under control, and no military rule, says Muhyiddin

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that the Cabinet, state executive councils and government services will continue to function as usual. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Tuesday (Jan 12) assured Malaysians there will be no curfews or military rule in the country, after the declaration of a state of emergency earlier the same day to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

In a special address broadcast on national television and social media platforms, the embattled premier also gave his assurance that a general election will be called as soon as the emergency can be lifted, based on the recommendations of an independent committee.

The state of emergency is set to last until Aug 1.

"The civilian government will continue to function. The emergency proclaimed by the King is not a military coup and curfews will not be enforced," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said.

The Perikatan Nasional government, whose parliamentary majority has been in doubt in recent days, had requested an emergency declaration to tackle the pandemic in October last year. This move, which was rejected by King Abdullah Ahmad Shah, drew criticism from Mr Muhyiddin's political rivals that it was intended to suspend Parliament and avoid snap polls being called.

On Tuesday, Mr Muhyiddin said there will be no Parliament or state assembly sittings for the duration of the emergency. However, he committed to holding a general election as soon as the Covid-19 crisis was under control.

"I give my firm commitment that general elections will be held as soon as the independent committee endorses that the Covid-19 pandemic has eased or controlled fully, and elections can be safely held. Then it will be up to the public to elect a new government," he said.

He added that the Cabinet, state executive councils and government services will continue to function as usual.

"I give my assurance that the government machinery and public services will not be affected by this emergency declaration," he said.

Malaysia has recorded more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases daily for the past week, with active cases inundating government facilities. A record 3,309 cases were reported on Tuesday, taking the total to over 141,000 with 559 deaths.

Mr Muhyiddin also said the emergency order will also mean that the King can make the necessary decrees to tackle the pandemic, including ordering private healthcare facilities to be taken over by the government if public hospitals are stretched.

His speech came after a proclamation on Tuesday by Sultan Abdullah of Pahang, consenting to the declaration of an emergency after a meeting with Mr Muhyiddin on Monday.

"Sultan Abdullah advises the public to remain calm, resilient and (to) persevere in facing the emergency and movement control order (MCO) for our own safety and interest," said Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin in a statement on Tuesday, referring to movement restrictions to curb surging Covid-19 cases.

The King also consented to the government's proposal to set up an independent committee comprising government and opposition MPs, as well as health experts, to "make recommendations to His Majesty if it deems fit that the emergency can be withdrawn earlier (than Aug 1)".

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The emergency order comes a day after Mr Muhyiddin announced that several states will be put under stringent movement controls starting on Wednesday to curb rising coronavirus infections. Johor, Melaka, Selangor, Penang, Sabah and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan will be under the MCO until Jan 26.

Mr Muhyiddin added that a recovery MCO, where social gatherings are allowed and businesses can reopen, will continue in Perlis and most of Sarawak.

He also said that three districts in Sarawak - Kuching, Miri and Sibu - as well as Pahang, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan will be under the conditional MCO, which bans social gatherings.

What the emergency entails:

- Effective from Jan 11 to Aug 1. Can be lifted earlier if an independent committee recommends that the pandemic is under control.

- Civilian government remains in place. No military rule.

- No curfews.

- No parliamentary or state assembly sittings. No elections.

- Cabinet, state executive councils and public services continue to function.

- Economic activities to continue as usual, subject to health protocols.

- King can make decrees under emergency, such as ordering the government to take over private healthcare facilities to relieve strain on public hospitals.

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