The CSO Platform for Reform, a coalition of 75 Malaysian civil society organisations (CSOs), is alarmed by the Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement of the state of emergency which was proclaimed on 12 January 2021. This was announced in view of the escalated rise in COVID-19 cases and the pressure on the public health system, and is expected to be enforced until 1 August 2021, or earlier if the number of COVID-19 cases decrease.
In his statement, the Prime Minister also issued a strong warning that stern actions will be taken upon anyone who tries to interfere with the government’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s economy.
We view this move by the Prime Minister as an assault on our civil liberties and is detrimental to parliamentary democracy especially when the Prime Minister stated that Parliament and state assembly sittings will be suspended for the duration of the emergency. The pronouncement does not demonstrate a real necessity as expressly set out in Article 150 of the Federal Constitution to justify the unfettered executive power to Muhyiddin, especially when MCO was already announced the night before. It is concerning that we are now left with no real mechanism of checks and balances against this government.
As a civil society, we are also as equally concerned and committed to fighting the pandemic. While we think the public health crisis must be handled urgently through powers under other laws such as MCO, the overreach of executive power without the need for parliament or state assembly oversight is a tragedy of governance. Separation of power is key to a democratic government. Any move that allows the functions, personnel and powers of governance to be concentrated in one single body must be viewed with the greatest caution, due to the absence of check and balance against possible abuse of power and curtailment of the people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The CSO Platform for Reform firmly believes in good governance via institutional reforms, and we demand that the government uphold our fundamental human rights and not use the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool to justify actions, such as the emergency, to undermine our democracy and civil liberties. We urge the government not to prioritise political opportunism, and instead to refocus on flattening the COVID-19 curve with the existing measures.
We call on the public to participate in an online protest against this measure initiated by the Prime Minister by joining an online campaign using the hashtag #BantahDaruratMuhyiddin.
This statement is issued by the CSO Platform for Reform. We are a coalition of 75 civil society organisations (CSOs) focusing on institutional reforms.
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