The Malaysian government is abusing the state of emergency while at the same time failing to control the Covid-19 pandemic, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed yesterday.
Speaking yesterday in a special online address after his Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) virtual annual congress was stopped last Friday by the authorities, he said the government is behaving like "samseng" (gangsters) with critics being detained.
The government asked that the three-day congress be halted last Friday evening, although it was approved earlier.
"Instead of using the emergency powers to speed up administrative processes, they are being used to threaten and arrest government critics," Datuk Seri Anwar said in the address aired on Facebook. "Anyone who criticises the government, they are detained. What is this? A country run by samseng."
Police last Friday arrested a Twitter user under the Emergency Ordinance for reportedly questioning the government's RM70 million (S$22.5 million) allocation to develop the Covid-19 vaccine website. Peaceful protesters, including youth, have also been detained and questioned by police in the last few months.
Malaysia has been battling its deadliest wave of Covid-19 in the last few months, with daily cases hitting a record 9,020 on May 29. It logged a record number of daily deaths last Wednesday of 126.
With the health crisis and unemployment dominating conversation, and Parliament sittings suspended since mid-January when the emergency was declared, the opposition has been pointing the finger at the government's flailing response to Covid-19.
Mr Anwar yesterday criticised the Muhyiddin Yassin administration for failing to use the emergency powers to bolster the battle against Covid-19 or ramp up vaccinations, casting doubt on a target to achieve herd immunity by December.
"Deaths are increasing. Patients in the intensive care units are increasing. Positive Covid-19 cases are up, but testing is low," he said.
The government has also come under fire after thousands faced technical problems when registering online for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
The PKR congress, which started last Friday morning with speeches by several leaders, was on that evening ordered to stop.
PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution said the National Security Council, which decides on Covid-19 protocols, told PKR to postpone its virtual congress because "non-essential social activities" were not allowed.
Social activities are banned under an ongoing lockdown from June 1 to June 14.
The PKR annual meeting was held as Mr Anwar is trying to solidify his base after the shock defection last year of the party's No. 2 Azmin Ali and a group of lawmakers, which spiked internal mistrust.
Mr Anwar also leads the three-party Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance, with his allies casting their eyes at other options to lead them back to power. Since last year, PKR has lost 15 MPs and six assemblymen to Tan Sri Muhyiddin's ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance. PKR currently has 35 MPs out of 222 in Parliament.
Mr Anwar, 73, said PKR could work with "former enemies" to win back political control.
"In this current situation, we do not have the luxury of being too rigid in rejecting all forms of cooperation," he said.