Sin Chew Daily
His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong has accepted the government's proposal to declare a state of emergency with immediate effect until August 1 to fight the increasingly serious COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
During Emergency, all elections will not be allowed, including general and state elections, and this is seen as having a stabilizing effect on the persistently tumultuous Malaysian politics, with the hope politicians across the divide will negotiate and cooperate and all Malaysians can come together to battle the virus and fix the economy.
The Palace statement on Jan 12 pointed out that His Majesty had consented to an independent committee comprising of cabinet members, opposition leaders and professionals, to tackle the pandemic and overall assessment.
With the Parliament suspended throughout the Emergency period, this independent committee will temporarily take over the day-to-day operation of various government mechanisms.
This is not the first time an emergency decree has been declared in this country. Under Article 150(2) of the Federal Constitution, the government can declare a state of emergency with the consent from His Majesty when there is perceived threat of a major emergency to national security or the economic life or public order.
PM Muhyiddin said in a televised address on Tuesday morning that he hopes politicians will set aside their differences during the pandemic and work alongside with the rakyat to combat the virus. He insisted that Emergency was declared because of the coronavirus, not because he wanted to defer the election, adding that Malaysians will get to elect a new government when the virus is under control and everything is back to normal.
We cannot say no political factors at all have been involved in the declaration of Emergency, but the chronic rivalry between two major opposing camps is indeed unfavorable to fighting the virus.
As the emergency decree may momentarily stabilize the political situation, all our earlier concerns of political turmoil, economic slump and uncontrolled spread of the virus should be dissolved.
With a year of experience fighting the virus, hopefully the government has grown to be more versatile this time in declaring an MCO 2.0 so that its impact on Malaysians' day-to-day living and economic activities will be minimized.
The first MCO was imposed nationwide for 47 days between March 18 and May 3 last year, involving many business sectors. Although we managed to somewhat contain the spread of the virus at that time, tremendous damage was done to the country's economy, education as well as the livelihood of ordinary citizens.
The more relaxed CMCO was subsequently introduced, followed by even more lax RMCO. Unfortunately, due to political conflicts and non-compliance of SOPs by some businesses and members of the public, we witnessed a new spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases, forcing the government to simultaneously impose MCO 2.0 and an emergency decree.
Up till Jan 12, the country reported a cumulative total of more than 141,000 positive cases, at 4-digit daily increases for 33 straight days. As a result, our modular hospitals have been stretched to their limits and the healthcare system is on the brink of collapse as vaccines have yet to arrive here. It is therefore absolutely necessary to adopt more proactive measures to rbing the virus under control.
Firstly, the government has proclaimed a state of emergency to halt all political fights and focus on mitigating the pandemic.
Secondly, the MCO enforced this time is not a blanket policy but more specifically targeting the worse hit areas of Klang Valley, Penang, Melaka, Johor and Sabah, while a more toned down CMCO or RMCO is imposed elsewhere. This is to minimize the impact on all Malaysians.
Thirdly, cross-state travels are banned nationwide and people living in MCO areas can move within a 10km radius from their homes.
Fourthly, to ensure SOP compliance, restaurants are only allowed to provide takeaway and delivery services.
Fifth, five economic sectors are allowed to operate as usual, including manufacturing, construction, services, trade distribution, and plantation and commodities. Supermarkets, medical and financial services will also be allowed with strict SOP compliance.
We have worked so hard for the past one year to fight the virus, and from there we have picked up the important "formula of success": political stability + MCO + full cooperation from the rakyat + healthcare resources + vaccines.
As for the Emergency, Parliament is suspended and there will be no elections. And for most ordinary citizens, life will go on as usual without strict curfews and should best be seen as perhaps a confidence booster!