What's the big emergency?
As you were
It was a long weekend indeed as the entire nation waited literally to Sunday evening to know if the country would be entering a state of emergency, or darurat.
Thankfully, there’ll be no such declaration being made under his watch, so sayeth the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. And that, in a nutshell, has put an end to PM Muhyiddin’s drastic bid to (allegedly! allegedly!) deal with Malaysia’s rising Covid-19 numbers.
With rumours flying this way and that since Friday, statements being made, opinions being bandied about, and meetings being held between ministers, with the Agong, amongst the rulers, and at Moo’s home late last night, you’re probably already well clued-in as to all that’s gone down. Nevertheless, in the event you’re blur as hell, here’re our CliffsNotes:
On Friday, our glorious PM met with his Cabinet and decided that given the pandemic and all the political uncertainty we’re currently being faced with, declaring a state of emergency would be the bestest, wisest, most perfectest thing for the country right now. News of the decision was leaked to the press by certain peeps in the know, and pretty quickly, #darurat and #emergency started trending on social media.
Now Malaysia’s has had to declare a state of emergency four times in the past – two nationwide and two statewide – including the terrible 1969 race riots many would like to pretend never happened. These pieces here and here give a pretty good idea as to what an emergency proclamation might entail.
However, the “economic emergency” reportedly planned by Moo might have gone a little differently. Initial goss was that life would pretty much go on as it has these coupla months and the emergency would only affect political processes like the upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting and Budget 2012 reading, polls the Batu Sapi by-election and perhaps plans for any general election.
Even so, by the time MooMoo and his entourage arrived to meet with the Agong to greenlight the Cabinet’s resolution, the rakyat was panicking and Bursa Malaysia had gotten its teeth kicked in.
In the end, though, despite all the talk initially, there was no big announcement on Friday. On Saturday, the Palace confirmed His Majesty had received the Cabinet’s suggestions and would discuss ’em with his fellow Malay rulers. That meeting of the rulers took place on Sunday afternoon at Istana Negara, and the decision was basically, as we surmised in the first para above: No Go!
Moo’s request had been for the King to declare an emergency under Articles 150(1) and 150(2B) of the Federal Constitution as a way to combat the health crisis. However, the rulers felt that was all unnecessary as the gomen could well implement policies to curb the spread of the disease without it.
Along with that rejection, His Majesty had also warned elected Parliamentarians to not behave l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶s̶p̶o̶i̶l̶e̶d̶ ̶p̶e̶t̶u̶l̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶c̶h̶i̶l̶d̶r̶e̶n̶ irresponsibly, stop politicking, and halt attempts to destabilise the government. And there was a reminder too – that the tabling of Budget 2021 was of utmost importance to the country and its people. Hear! Hear!
Prior to the King’s decree, Moo’s closest cheerleaders – among them International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali and Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa – had attempted to justify the darurat plan. They insisted the gomen needed to “take preemptive measures”, and “execute swift action against all threats”.
Not everyone was buying that load. Critics, and oh boy! were there many, have called the move a major overkill. They pointed out that given the political upheaval of the last couple of weeks, the PM had probably realised an emergency declaration – which has the effect of suspending Parliament and all democratic political processes – was the surest way to stay in power (again, allegedly! allegedly!).
It would also ensure his government’s Budget wouldn’t meet with opposition. But more on that below …
So was the emergency declaration all about saving one man’s job?
A number of Moo’s peeps, as we mentioned above, have insisted the big plan was all in the name of dealing with the pandemic. Regrettably, what none of them ever made very clear was why the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 – or Act 342 – wasn’t adequate enough to deal with the current coronavirus wave we’re getting whacked by.
Yep, the act may not have been passed with Covid-19 in mind. However, the powers conferred on the Health Minister and the government are wide enough and loose enough that once an “infected local area” is determined, under Section 11, the authorities can make any regulations and take any steps deemed fit to curb the spread of a disease.
Remember when PM Moo announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) back in March and we were all ordered to duduk rumah diam-diam? Well, that was under Act 342 and subsequently-issued Gazettes, complimented by the National Security Council Act 2016.
Also, while our Covid-19 numbers have, no doubt, been crazy of late, declaring a state of emergency right now would be like attempting to swat a fly with an Uzi, or to borrow a Rafidah Aziz phrase, kill rats with bombs. We could do it, yeah, but it could very well hurt us, our jobs, foreign direct investment and the bleeding stock market!
Still, Moo’s emergency gambit would make perfect sense, if, as some commentators have said, it’s not about Covid-19 at all, but a ploy by the PM and his merry men to remain in power.
The Malaysian air these past coupla weeks has been thick with the stench of politicking, and every day a new twist has emerged. But through all the back and forth and power plays, one thing’s been pretty clear – Moo Moo’s skating on thin ice.
The last time it was tested, when Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof was removed as Speaker, the PM’s support in the Dewan was anorexic as hell. Now though, given all the recent manoeuvring, there is a good chance it’s practically gone. Which is why Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s tabling of Budget 2021 when Parliament reconvenes could have proved a crucial turning point for the MP from Pagoh.
A Budget, as we previously noted, can be seen as a proxy confidence vote. If not that, there’s that flood of no-confidence motions filed against him at the Dewan, while unlikely to be heard, remains as an ever-present gnat in his soup.
And the PM knows that if he fails the Budget vote, the likes of Anwar, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and a whole bunch of other circling sharks will be only too ready, willing and able to shoo him outta Parliament, Putrajaya and that gilded Seri Perdana toilet seat.
Hence the declaration of emergency that would have the effect of proroguing Parliament (basically, tutup kedai lah). On a side note, this would spell bad news for us plebs, too, as the Perikatan Nasional gomen would be able to pass the Budget without any oversight.
A state emergency would also ensure, while in force, that no elections can be held. Moo, if you remember, has been under a lot of pressure to call for snap polls after his pyrrhic Sabah win.
There’s some logic in the view we certainly shouldn’t have to deal with right now is another round of campaigning and polling that could potentially worsen the Covid situation, just like it did in Sabah.
On the flip side, so many other countries, among them New Zealand and Singapore, have conducted huge scale elections and seen no major rise in cases. That means it can be done. We just messed up in Sabah. Big time.
The Agong calling time on Moo’s emergency plan has predictably, been applauded by Malaysians. Even so, what happens now?
PM Moo’s response to the royal rebuff late Sunday didn’t say a Goddamn thing apart from he appreciates the King’s advice and the Cabinet will further discuss the decree.
This is also particularly vexing considering le premier ministre had never even acknowledged his big emergency plan in the first place and once more failed to take accountability, what more apologise, for the state of uncertainty and anxiety he caused the entire bloody country!
On the surface, it may look like things are back to what they were before all the emergency talk. There’s still an air of uncertainty though. We’re willing to bet our bottom ringgit there’s more politics to come.
For starters, there’s that rumour the PM is being pushed to consider quitting his post.
The resignation rumour first started floating when a number of ministers were seen entering Moo’s residence on Sunday night. Thing is, while certain sources quoted claimed everything’s fine and dandy and the ministers were just preparing for Monday’s special Cabinet meeting, some other fellas have claimed Muhyiddin’s done with his stint as premier, and is ready to throw in the towel.
What the real story is is anyone’s guess at this point. But what we do know is the PM’s meeting with all state menteris besar and chief ministers that’d been scheduled for today’s been called off.
Come what may, DAP has said it’s time now for reconciliation for the greater good of the country. Ditto, Warisan and even Umno, which just about a week ago was holding Moo to ransom. But can this fragile peace hold? And what will indeed happen should someone decide that they don’t wanna play ball, again?
Resignation or not, it’s still uncertain if Perikatan Nasional’s Budget can be successfully passed. Prior to the King’s decision, some folks, including former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, DAP supremo Uncle Lim Kit Siang and political analyst Wong Chin Huat, had proposed a confidence-and-supply type of arrangement i.e. a political deal where Moo gets a bunch of MPs to agree to not vote his gomen down on issues of confidence and finance.
It’s a bold suggestion and one that’s never been considered by a previous sitting government ‘cos our administrations have generally enjoyed solid support in Parliament. However, Moo’s razor-thin majority might force him to bring opposition MPs to the table and get them to agree to back his government on a couple of matters at least until the pandemic is no longer threat. Question is though, will Moo, or any other of our intrepid politicos, move in that direction?
Confidence-and-supply arrangements are normally seen in mature and stable democracies and would require some giving and taking (we’d need to check if Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka even recognises the term give-and-take for Malaysian politics). This means Muhyiddin must be prepared to concede in some areas to his former pals across the aisle for the sake of the rakyat.
Still, it’s hard to look past the hypocrisy of such “unity” calls by our politicians, especially from the likes of Azmin ‘frog king’ Ali, or Anwar’s criticism over the “undemocratic” emergency move”. Both rivals have done their fair share of stirring the pot. The former even succeeded in dethroning the Pakatan Harapan government in the early days of the Covid outbreak in Malaysia and the latter just recently trying to take down PN.
The jury is still out on whether our politicians are only capable of considering the greater good if it means the greater long term success of their own political futures, or if they truly understand that fighting the pandemic, addressing our economic fragility and ensuring the people’s mental and financial happiness ultimately aligns with everyone’s goals.
Off the charts!
So as the country’s leaders were busy meeting and plotting and making statements and counter-statements of a potential emergency declaration this weekend, our Covid-19 numbers saw an unprecedented surge, with the country’s daily infection tally breaching the 1,000 mark and more fatalities being recorded than ever before.
In terms of deaths, Friday’s tally of 10 marked a new record high. Still, it was Saturday’s caseload of 1,228 infections that got folks to sit up and start worrying like crazy.
Malaysia’s coronavirus numbers have been on an upward trend since the beginning of October, and yeah, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had previously warned that our R0 (pronounced R-naught) rate suggested a four-digit spike was imminent. On Saturday, though, the shit finally got way real.
But while we should all certainly be concerned, a point to note is that testing has been increased over the past few weeks in certain key locations, and is what’s exposed a higher number of cases.
Also, though infections and deaths have gone up by a whole load – with the country seeing 2,761 new cases and 25 deaths from Friday to Sunday, our recoveries have increased too, with 1,717 discharged cases. In all, the country has settled at 26,565 total cases (9,202 active cases) and 236 fatalities respectively during the course of the pandemic.
Be that as it may, though, Sabah is still getting pounded. And to make matters worse, Noor Hisham’s come out to blame Sabahans for lacking education and understanding and contributing to the state’s woes.
Does he have a point about people running away from health officials out of fear? Maybe. But as political analyst and educator Bridget Welsh points out, it’s really rich painting three million Sabahans with the same unfair brush when the Health Ministry officials didn’t go to ground earlier to understand the issues in Sabah. Also, it’s not like there’re enough beds in hospitals there when people do get tested positive, right? Or is it not true that certain Covid-19 patients are being treated at home?
Anyways here’re a few other Covid-19 highlights from the weekend:
- The CMCO for Sabah’s been extended until Nov 9. Two areas in the state –Taman Semarak and PPR Balung in Tawau – are being placed under enhanced MCOs to Nov 8.
- Speaking of the Health D-G, the man who once could do no wrong, has called on bosses to make sure that employees are working from home during the CMCO and not out galivanting and visiting malls. Yo, Tan Sri, since when was it any business of bosses if their employees visit malls. Also, if you think malls are a problem, close them lah!
- On top of our medical frontliners and schoolkids getting hit, it seems a total of 161 police officers and their family members are also currently being treated for Covid-19.
- Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari is set to be called up by the cops for breaching a self-quarantine order. Amir was ordered to sit his ass down at home after returning from Sabah earlier this month. However, it seems the dude was out and about because he apparently had to check on the water problems in Selangor. Seriously, bro? Were you cleaning the rivers or what?
- Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Mohd Noor’s special private secretary Noorzain Tawi, 60, has died of Covid-19. The CM and his wife tested positive for Covid earlier this month and were discharged from hospital last week.
“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency."
- Arnold H. Glasow -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- At least 24 people were killed in a suicide attack at an education centre in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday. The Islamic State terror group is believed to be behind the attack.
- Lee Kun-hee, Samsung’s big bossman and the guy who made the South Korean electronics company a household name, died Sunday aged 78. Lee, who was left bedridden after a heart attack in 2014, inherited the company from his dad in 1987.
- A top aide of US vice-president Mike Pence has tested positive for Covid. Yet, Pence will not quarantine but will instead continue campaigning ahead of the polls.
- Greenpeace warns that contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant has radioactive substances that could damage human DNA. Japan hasn’t settled on what to do with the water that’s been pumped in over the years to cool the plant’s tsunami-damaged reactors, but government officials say there’re few other options than dumping it into the sea.
- Lewis Hamilton has broken Michael Schumacher’s all-time Formula 1 record of 91 career wins. The Brit claimed his 92nd win with a spectacular drive in the Portuguese Grand Prix. His first F1 victory was registered in the Canadian GP in 2007.
- Russian mixed martial arts champ Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement Saturday after defeating American Justin Gaethje. Khabib, who leaves with 29-0 career record and 13-0 Ultimate Fighting Championship record, said the decision to quit the sport was made after his dad and coach succumbed to Covid-19 in July.