Malaysia's King agrees to meet opposition-led committee seeking end to Covid-19 emergency

Malaysia is struggling to tame Covid-19 infections this year, with over 2,000 cases reported daily in the past seven days. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's King has consented to an audience with an opposition committee which is appealing to end the emergency.

Committee for Ending the Emergency Declaration chairman Khalid Abdul Samad said the date has yet to be fixed, but he was confident that it would be "as soon as possible".

The meeting would be the first time the opposition will have direct access to Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah since he declared an emergency for Malaysia on Jan 12.

"I am pleased to inform you that this morning I received a letter from Istana Negara saying that His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, has agreed to grant an audience to the Committee for Ending the Emergency Declaration, to submit a petition to appeal for an end to the emergency," Mr Khalid said.

"Although the date for the audience has yet to be determined, we are confident that it will be set as soon as possible to enable us all to appear before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to submit the appeal petition," he said in a statement on Thursday (April 22).

Mr Khalid said the "adverse effects" of the emergency are becoming "more pronounced" with each passing day.

Sultan Abdullah, based on advice from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, controversially declared a national state of emergency in mid-January.

The Muhyiddin administration said the emergency, which will expire on Aug 1, will allow the government to focus on fighting Covid-19.

But the opposition says the move was a ploy to keep the Perikatan Nasional government in power despite dwindling support from lawmakers in Parliament, and is pushing for the emergency to be lifted.

The government has controversially suspended all Parliament and state-assembly sittings, and raised questions when it announced this week that it would be tapping into Malaysia's RM17 billion (S$5.5 billion) National Trust Fund, largely built on petroleum revenue, to pay for vaccinations and related expenditure without oversight from Parliament.

Sultan Abdullah can lift the emergency earlier based on the advice of a bipartisan special committee set up under the emergency proclamation.

Opposition lawmakers led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim have asked the King to end the emergency so that a Parliament sitting can be held to test Mr Muhyiddin's political support, as well as discuss the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Malaysia's Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin said on Thursday (April 23) that the Emergency has allowed the government to curb the spread of the virus via the amendment of several specific acts, such as the Workers' Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Act 2019 to ensure better living conditions for foreign workers.

"Without (Emergency), maybe all this could not have been done, and most likely, we would not be able to reduce the Covid-19 cases as fast as possible," he told reporters.

Umno, a restive party torn between supporting the Muhyiddin government and toppling it, at its annual meeting on March 28 resolved to cut ties in the upcoming general election with Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and the Perikatan Nasional alliance led by Bersatu.

Mr Muhyiddin has promised that a general election will be held once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

Malaysia is struggling to tame Covid-19 infections this year, with more than 2,000 cases reported daily in the past seven days to Wednesday, after being able to suppress the daily figures less than 2,000 in the past six consecutive weeks.

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