THE weekend drama of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s bid to get a state of emergency enforced is over, but the saga of his government’s survival continues.
After consulting the Conference of Rulers on Sunday, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said the government was handling the Covid-19 pandemic adequately and did not see a need for emergency anywhere in the country.
It marks the first time in Malaysia that the constitutional monarch has rejected the advice of the prime minister.
And although the king has decreed that politicians stop politicking and focus on rebuilding the economy and flattening the Covid-19 curve, there is much left unsettled as Muhyiddin deals with the sting of rejection and the loss of credibility.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers in recent developments so far:
Up until Sunday evening, Malaysians were unsure whether they would wake up to a country under emergency rule.
But the agong saved the day when he declared there was no necessity for Malaysia to use the Emergency Ordinance to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the king pointed out, Malaysia has successfully and effectively contained the pandemic and saw no reason why a state of emergency was needed anywhere in Malaysia.
The monarch also decreed a stop to the politicking and demanded a united and bipartisan approach to problem solving, showing foresight to the ensuing political uncertainty over the fate of Muhyiddin and his government.
His Royal Highness’ statement drew praise from many sections of society for being in tune with the people’s concerns, for rising above politics and for defending parliamentary democracy.
“Daulat Tuanku!” trended on Twitter as Malaysians thanked the monarchy, undoubtedly one of the big winners in this episode.
With the exception of nasi lemak as our national dish, most Malaysians are divided along the lines of ethnicity, religion, language, political affiliation, football teams, states and many other issues.
But the bid to impose a state of emergency united most Malaysians, regardless of background or political leaning, against what was seen by many as a desperate attempt by the prime minister to avoid Parliament and stay in power.
Whether they leaned towards Umno, Pakatan Harapan (PH) or were from civil society, each called on their lawmakers, leaders and the king to reject Muhyiddin’s emergency proposal on many social media platforms.
Sunday’s result shows that a united voice can do wonders, despite the state’s clever machinations to engineer support for an emergency.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Zahid had a tough week after a letter purportedly bearing his signature supporting Anwar Ibrahim to form the next government was leaked to the media.
Although the letter was subsequently denied, it nevertheless put the Umno president under fire by members who questioned his loyalty to Umno.
After being made to look like someone who had betrayed his party, Zahid was forced to eat humble pie on Thursday by declaring a ceasefire against Muhyiddin and Perikatan Nasional (PN).
But before the ceasefire had even crossed the 48-hour mark, Muhyiddin stunned everyone with his emergency proposal. It now appears that Umno was kept in the dark about such plans.
In his reaction to the agong’s decree against an emergency, Zahid said: “This episode clearly teaches us that implementation of any major steps that is to be taken by the government requires a process of deliberation and consensus of all parties.”
Just like everyone else, the opposition does not want a fresh general election now, as the pandemic rages. Nobody wants a repeat of Sabah.
To ensure that the government can stay in power long enough to deal with Covid-19, the opposition entered into confidence and supply talks with PN.
Subject to conditions, the opposition are willing to back Muhyiddin’s Budget 2021, in exchange for equal constituency allocations and parliamentary select committees.
These plans, however, had to be dropped, after PN opted to go for emergency orders.
After the king’s rejection on Sunday, the opposition is now in a much better position to ask for more. As it is, some have already asked for a couple of heads to roll, namely Muhyiddin’s hatchet men in Bersatu, Azmin Ali and Hamzah Zainuddin.
The agong almost never publicly disagrees with the prime minister of the day. Mostly, because the palace in its role as constitutional monarch should not get dragged into politics.
Banking on one interpretation of the federal constitution, that the monarch shall take the advice of the prime minister, Muhyiddin’s team proposed sending Malaysia into a state of emergency, so that it could stave off any attempts by Anwar to take over the government, or any rogue MP who decides to vote against PN’s maiden Budget next month.
But the bold attempt has clearly backfired and reignited calls for Muhyiddin to resign, or #MuhyiddinOut as the popular hashtag on Twitter goes.
Muhyiddin should have negotiated a confidence and supply with the opposition. Or at the very least, trusted all his 113 MPs to stand with him during the Budget vote next month.
This setback has now placed him at the mercy of Umno and the opposition. Worst yet, public sentiment has now swung against “Abah”.
Umno has offered a reconciliation, the terms of which are still undefined, and it remains to be seen how much Muhyiddin will have to concede in order to stay in power.
Other than Umno, the other component parties – Bersatu, PAS, GPS, STAR, MCA, MIC – were conspicuously silent as they watched the country cry out against a state of emergency.
With the attempt foiled, voters must ask whether these parties and their MPs are in tune with what the people care about, or are in alliance with Bersatu for the sake of power.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT