Malaysia's King says he did not consent to revoke emergency laws, criticises government's conduct

The King's remarks back opposition lawmakers' assertions that the government had not followed constitutional due process.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah on Thursday (July 29) revealed that he had not consented to revoke the country's emergency ordinances, and criticised the government for announcing a revocation without following constitutional procedure.

In a statement issued by the Comptroller of the Royal Household Indera Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, Sultan Abdullah said he had consented to the proposal to revoke emergency laws being only presented and debated in Parliament by lawmakers.

Malaysia's de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan surprised the country on Monday when he revealed that the Cabinet had agreed to revoke the emergency ordinances - which were put in place to aid the country's Covid-19 crisis - effective last week.

This was done without putting the revocation to a vote in Parliament, where Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's majority remains in doubt.

Many of the laws have been in place since January, when Sultan Abdullah consented to a state of emergency under the request of Mr Muhyiddin. Lawmakers argued earlier in the week that any revocation also needs to have the consent of the monarch.

Sultan Abdullah's remarks on Thursday back assertions by opposition lawmakers that the government had not followed constitutional due process in pulling back the ordinances.

Malaysia's state of emergency was due to end on Aug 1, while ordinances made under the proclamation can last up to six months after the end of the emergency period.

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Sultan Abdullah said the government had "rushed" the application to revoke the ordinances, had confused Parliament with its statement, and that it had undermined the function and powers of the monarch as per the Constitution.

"His Majesty stresses that the statement by the Honourable Minister (Datuk Seri Takiyuddin) on July 26, 2021, is inaccurate and misleading members of the House," the statement said.

"His Majesty regrets the statement that was made in Parliament on July 26, 2021 - that the government has revoked all emergency ordinances that were agreed to by His Majesty for the emergency period even though the revocation has not received His Majesty's assent," the Palace said. 

Despite persistent calls to explain the revocation - including from government backbenchers - Mr Takiyuddin said on Tuesday that he would explain the matter further only on Monday (Aug 2).

Opposition lawmakers have charged that the government had rushed through in announcing the revocation in order to avoid a Parliamentary vote.

Mr Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional administration has not had its majority tested in Parliament since Umno - the biggest party that forms the government- said it was withdrawing support for the Premier earlier this month.

While several Umno MPs - many of whom are serving as ministers in the current administration - have continued to back Mr Muhyiddin, one senior Umno MP, Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Hamzah, requested to be moved to the independent aisle in Parliament, after the veteran lawmaker said he had never supported Mr Muhyiddin.

The King's statement comes after months of seeming dissonance between the executive branch and the monarchy in Malaysia, as the country's Covid-19 crisis only worsened during the state of emergency under Mr Muhyiddin's leadership.

Earlier last month, Sultan Abdullah called for Malaysia's Parliament to reopen before the expiry of the emergency proclamation so lawmakers could debate the emergency ordinances.

Mr Muhyiddin's administration initially said it would reconvene Parliament in September, before ceding to pressure from the Palace.

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However, despite calls by the monarch for a debate, the ongoing five-day special sitting has featured only briefings by ministers and questions from lawmakers, without any room for votes or a debate.

Mr Muhyiddin, who has a single-digit majority in Parliament, managed to pass the 2021 federal budget by a three-vote margin in December last year, before Umno officially pulled support for him.

He has promised to call for elections once Malaysia's coronavirus caseload is reduced, even as the country faces its worst outbreak despite two months in full lockdown.

The country reported a new daily record of 17,405 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. It also recorded a new high of 207 deaths for two consecutive days earlier this week.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.