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Malaysia's king berates government for misleading Parliament

File: Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, right, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin   | Photo Credit: AP

Malaysia's king on Thursday rebuked Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's government for misleading Parliament over the status of coronavirus emergency measures, in a blow to the embattled leader who is struggling to stave off challenges to his leadership.

Mr. Muhyiddin obtained royal consent to declare the emergency in January, allowing him to halt Parliament and rule by ordinance without legislative approval. Critics have slammed the emergency as a ruse for Mr. Muhyiddin to hang on to power.

Parliament reopened Monday for the first time this year after Me. Muhyiddin caved to pressure from the king, but the government said the five-day special session would only be to brief lawmakers on the the pandemic and no other motions would be allowed.

The king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, took issue with Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan's statement to Parliament on Monday that the emergency ordinances had been annulled on July 21, ahead of the Aug. 1 expiration.

The monarch said he didn’t approve the proposed annulment and that Takiyuddin’s statement was “inaccurate and has confused” members of the legislature.

Sultan Abdullah said he had the law minister and attorney-general to table the matter in Parliament for debate and was disappointed it wasn’t carried out. He said the government’s hasty move was an affront to the rule of law and disregarded the king’s functions and powers as the head of state.

The king's statement immediately sparked an uproar in Parliament, with opposition lawmakers shouting “treason" and demanding Mr. Muhyiddin resign.

“The statement clearly shows that the Cabinet led by Muhyiddin has violated the constitution, insulted the royal institution and that Takiyuddin has ... lied to the house and misled Malaysians," said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who filed a motion of no-confidence against Mr. Muhyiddin.

Members of the United Malays National Organization, the biggest party in the ruling coalition, have also issued statements calling for Mr. Muhyiddin to step down.

There was no immediate response from the government and Thursday's Parliament session was temporarily adjourned. The sitting was further delayed after the Health Ministry ordered a swab test for all lawmakers following the detection of two COVID-19 cases in Parliament.

The opposition has previously accused Mr. Muhyiddin of trying to avoid votes in Parliament that may show he has lost majority support and prompt the king to call for a new leader.

Analysts said it was an unprecedented rebuke from the king and further undermines Mr. Muhyiddin's unelected government, which took power in March 2020 with a razor-thin majority in Parliament.

“Muhyiddin was dependent on the king’s support. He was standing on the back of the king’s support. Today that leg was pulled away,” said Bridget Welsh of Malaysia’s University of Nottingham and an expert in Southeast Asian politics.

“It will increase pressure for him to quit and weaken his support at a time when he is seen as mismanaging the pandemic," she said.

Despite the emergency measures, the government has failed to curb a worsening surge in coronavirus infections, with total cases breaching the 1 million mark on Sunday.

Mr. Muhyiddin became prime minister after initiating the downfall of the reformist government that won the 2018 elections. His Bersatu party formed an unstable alliance that includes UMNO, which was ousted in the 2018 polls.

UMNO, the largest party in the alliance, has been unhappy at playing second fiddle to Bersatu and and recently said it would stop supporting Muhyiddin. However, some UMNO members still back the premier.


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 2:51:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/malaysias-king-berates-government-for-misleading-parliament/article35602602.ece

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