PETALING JAYA: A lawyer and an election reform activist have poured cold water on Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa’s response to criticisms on purported plans for a state of emergency.
Amid speculation about a possible declaration of a state of emergency, Annuar had challenged lawyers for alternative laws by which elections could be postponed.
Malaysian Bar constitutional law committee co-chair Andrew Khoo said there was no need for a nationwide emergency as tighter enforcement of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act could control the spread of the virus, as when the movement control order first came into force.
“It is the laxness of enforcement that is the problem. So lax that even Cabinet ministers can violate the rules with near impunity,” he said. “But the main point is that the real reason for an emergency proclamation has already been exposed by the minister himself, and it has nothing to do with the health pandemic.”
He questioned Annuar’s rationale in raising the issue of elections, saying this would only happen if the government lost a vote of confidence or had its budget defeated in Parliament, leading to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin having to resign.
Annuar had mentioned the impending Batu Sapi by-election, scheduled for Dec 5, and the Sarawak state assembly elections which must be held by mid-2021.
He said 87% of voters had indicated they did not want a general election for fear of Covid-19 spreading.
Khoo said a general election was not necessary even if the prime minister resigned, as the King could call on another MP who commands a majority of the Dewan Rakyat.
The lack of a real and compelling rationale for a national emergency has been “laid bare for all to see”, Khoo said.
Electoral reform activist Thomas Fann said other countries have shown that elections can be conducted safely during a pandemic.
“We have conducted by-elections in Chini and Slim safely while facing Covid-19. Sabah could be better but we can learn from our shortcomings and learn from other countries.”
He said while the Batu Sapi by-election and the Sarawak state election must take place, these can be conducted safely if hygiene rules were observed.
Fann said a general election was not necessary. “If Muhyiddin really cares for the health of the rakyat, he could just graciously resign along with Annuar and the rest of his Cabinet. Then the Dewan Rakyat could choose an MP from among themselves to be the next PM.”
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