Malaysia’s government will not extend a controversial coronavirus state of emergency beyond August 1, a minister said Monday, as parliament convened after a months-long suspension that sparked widespread anger.
The king in January declared the country’s first nationwide state of emergency in more than half a century to fight COVID-19, following the advice of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
It allowed the government to rule by decree and suspend parliament, prompting critics to accuse Muhyiddin of using the crisis to avoid a no-confidence vote and shore up his weak coalition.
Despite the emergency and a nationwide lockdown, the outbreak only worsened, fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant. Malaysia’s caseload breached the one million mark at the weekend, and there have been around 8,000 deaths.
Facing mounting public anger and pressure from the king, Muhyiddin agreed to reconvene the legislature for a five-day sitting before the state of emergency officially ends next month.
However, the opposition has slammed the short session as a sham that will not truly test the embattled premier’s support.
As lawmakers gathered in the 222-seat lower house Monday wearing masks and separated by transparent screens, Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan announced the government would not request an extension of the state of emergency.
Muhyiddin also defended his handling of the pandemic in an address to the legislature, saying he understood “the public’s anxiety amid the spike in COVID-19 cases”.
“The government is not sitting back and watching the public suffer -- (we are) acting to save lives.”
Other ministers are due to brief MPs on matters related to the pandemic.
But opposition lawmakers expressed anger at not being able to debate or vote on anything during the session, pointing out the king himself had called for important issues to be scrutinized.
“The prime minister has acted as a traitor for not adhering to the wishes of the king,” opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told the legislature.
Muhyiddin, who seized power in March last year without an election after the collapse of a reformist government, has seen his administration riven by infighting.
The biggest party backing him, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), announced it was withdrawing support for his coalition earlier this month.
But UMNO itself is split -- some of its MPs still back Muhyiddin -- and his position seems secure in the short term.
Saudi King Salman directs KSrelief to urgently provide Malaysia with COVID-19 aidSaudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz directed the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) to urgently provide Malaysia with aid ... Coronavirus
Malaysia set to extend COVID-19 lockdown, boost aidMalaysia is set to extend a nationwide lockdown that was originally due to end Monday as the number of new COVID infections still remains too high, ... Coronavirus
Malaysia reports record rise in COVID-19 cases, deathsMalaysia reported 9,020 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic and the fifth straight day of record ... Coronavirus
Malaysia reports first case of Indian COVID-19 variantMalaysia has detected its first case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India, Health Minister Adham Baba said on Sunday, ... Coronavirus