Don’t make emergency an issue, free M’sia from virus first, says legal expert

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Malaysia The Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya. PIX: HAZROL ZAINAL / MalaysiaGazette / 28 FEBRUARY 2020. proclamation of emergency Covid-19
The Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya. PIX: HAZROL ZAINAL / MalaysiaGazette / 28 FEBRUARY 2020.

KUALA LUMPUR – The emergency proclaimed by the King to arrest the COVID-19 pandemic in the country should not be made an issue because Malaysia is not the only country that has  declared it, said legal expert Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah.

He said countries such as New Zealand, Japan, Australia, France, Finland and Indonesia had also taken the same path.

The senior lawyer underscored that although some may argue that it was against the principles of democracy, the overriding need to save lives took precedence.

“In my point of view, the declaration is necessary as the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) is no longer adequate to contain the worsening spread of the virus as the act requires procedures which may be time consuming and the decisions require lengthy discussions.

“It does not provide a fast and efficient remedy. A declaration of emergency is important. For instance, with the declaration of emergency, private hospitals can now be ordered to take in COVID-19 cases. This is just one example of where an executive order can be given without the need of bureaucratic processes,” he told Bernama.

“There is no closed list and under the current situation when the country is facing a worsening of the pandemic, decisions must be made on the spot. For those who think that the emergency is politically driven, their view is misguided. In fact, it would appear to be a direct challenge on the powers of the King which is clearly provided for under the Constitution,” he stressed further.

Sharing the same sentiments, lawyer Muhammad Akram Abdul Aziz said COVID-19 cases have been on the rise daily lately, and if the current State of Emergency could stabilise the current political situation in Malaysia while curbing the cases, then it might be a good thing.

“After all, this is part of the prerogative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as stated in Article 150(1) of the Federal Constitution. It might be an issue from the perspective of local politicians, as some would view the emergency proclamation as a means of protecting the current government more than it is to curb the rise of COVID-19 cases.

“As it stands, people are still going on with their daily lives as normal as they can (within the terms of the Movement Control Order), and as such it may be argued that the emergency proclamation is a non-issue to most of the Malaysian citizens,” he explained.

As for Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Social Sciences lecturer Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, he was of the view that during this period, all members of Parliament (MPs) should put the people first rather than other issues and that people-driven priorities during the emergency should be addressed.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, meanwhile, urged  the government to use its powers to instruct financial institutions to stop chasing after debtors at least until the emergency is over.

“Under the emergency ordinance, the government has the power to instruct hotels or any other buildings to become quarantine centres. Same method should be applied to the banks. By doing this, people can see the benefits of the emergency,” he said.

On Jan 12, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, proclaimed an Emergency which will be enforced up to Aug 1 as a proactive measure to contain the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia.

— BERNAMA

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