Malaysian PM Muhyiddin visits Istana Negara; King set to meet political leaders

The official car carrying Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin leaving the Istana Negara on June 9, 2021.
The official car carrying Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin leaving the Istana Negara on June 9, 2021.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin arrived at the palace early on Wednesday (June 9), 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 to enter the palace gates, the first among opposition party heads who have audiences on Wednesday, although former premier Mahathir Mohamad is slated for Thursday.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who is also Parti Keadilan Rakyat president, said he pleaded with the constitutional monarch 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."

He added that the King has also been consulting experts on the pandemic.

When reporters asked if there were discussions about forming a new government, Mr Anwar said: “That question does not arise at this point.”

Democratic Action Party secretary general Lim Guan Eng, whose party has the most Members of Parliament, told reporters after his audience that the discussion with the King revolved mostly around financial assistance for the people to see through the outbreak.

Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu met the sovereign next. The leaders of Sarawak's ruling coalition will speak to the monarch via video conference on Monday.

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

Political and government sources, as well as media reports since Monday, have indicated that the constitutional monarch is meeting party chiefs across the political divide over the rest of the week.

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

The state of 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 on Wednesday that the nine state rulers would meet on June 16 for a "special discussion" on efforts to to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

This comes amid speculation that the King was looking into new ways to deal with the pandemic, including through the creation of a bipartisan body or one involving senior civil servants similar to the National Operations Council that was in place for two years during the last national emergency from 1969.

However, the Prime Minister's principal private secretary Marzuki Mohamad insisted that such a move was unnecessary as the current situation "is very unlike" that which followed the post-election race riots of May 13, 1969, widely considered Malaysia's darkest period.

"Firstly, we are not facing a security emergency, but a health emergency. Secondly, we have a functioning Cabinet," he said in a video posted on Facebook. "Once we have achieved herd immunity by the end of the year... we will be seeing a more vibrant political and democratic process. Not just Parliament sitting, even a general election can be held."