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2021-06-18 19:14:43 2497003

The prime minister's response

Opinion

By Mohsin Abdullah

Moments before I write this, The Malaysian Insight ran a report headlined "Palace puts up, takes down 'parliament must sit' post".

The report said: "Facebook and Instagram posts of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's decree for parliament to sit were removed minutes after they were published because they were 'old posts', palace officials said.

But many who spotted the posts before they were swiftly taken down believe they were new.

In the post, the King's order that "Parlimen perlu diadakan secepat mungkin" (parliament must convene as soon as possible) was highlighted in bold.

As we know, the words "Parlimen perlu diadakan secepat mungkin" were obviously excerpts from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's statement issued after His Majesty had attended a special meeting with brother Malay Rulers at Istana Negara a few days ago.

That statement issued by the Comptroller of the Royal Household was also posted on Facebook. It explained all advice from the Agong to the government decided at the special meeting.

Among the advice is the call for Parliament to reconvene. But the difference between the one posted briefly on Friday June 18 and the one posted on June 16 statement is, the words "secepat mungkin" were in bold, unlike in the earlier statement.

Generally, when words are highlighted in bold, it is meant to put emphasis or importance on particular issues or subjects.

Anyway, if the post which was put up and taken down is indeed new as believed by the folks who have seen it, then this can be seen as a "reminder" for the Muhyiddin-led government.

According to friends who managed to read the Facebook posting before it was taken down, the post attracted much attention from social media users who commented that the government should take note of the "reminder in bold".

In short, they had urged the government to listen to the Agong's call to reopen Parliament as soon as possible.

Interestingly (if that is the right word to use), a day earlier i.e. in the evening of Thursday June 17, Muhyiddin responded to the royal decree with a three paragraph statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

The gist of his response was that the government "took note" of the views expressed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and "the government will engage in follow-up measures based on the Federal Constitution and laws of the country".

Many, including yours truly, see that as not saying much as when Parliament will reconvene and whether the current emergency will not be prolonged after Aug 1 as stipulated in the proclamation made in January.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, for one, has deemed the PMO response as "meaningless" unless notice is given to MPs to convene Parliament. And he has called on Muhyiddin "to stop the charade".

I must say, even before the PMO issued Muhyiddin's response, comments and remarks from his ministers and Perikatan Nasional allies with regards to calls made by the Malay Rulers, in particular the Agong, have not been encouraging or reassuring.

Simply put, despite the big words there is nothing that one can take for certain prompting not only opposition politicians, analysts and political observers to voice out their displeasure but also the rakyat who took to, yes you guess it, social media platforms to air their opinions.

In a nutshell (and I am repeating myself here), many want the government to heed the Agong's call on the reopening of Parliament ASAP and give an assurance to end emergency.

To DAP's Lim Kit Siang, the government's failure to act on the Rulers' advice to reopen federal and state legislatures could cause the country to descend into a constitutional crisis.

To PKR's Fahmi Fadzil, Parliament must reconvene on August 2 at the very latest, i.e. one day after the current emergency is scheduled to end. This, according to Fahmi as quoted by Malay Mail "is to avert a constitutional crisis involving strict timelines for Parliament meetings".

As said earlier, Muhyiddin has "pledged" to use the Federal Constitution and laws of the country to engage in follow-up measures with regards to the Agong's decree.

Using the same laws Muhyiddin is talking about, some people inside and outside the political fraternity are claiming the prime minster can be removed or, to put it boldly, sacked should he fail to abide by the advice of the Agong.

"Not sack per se", says constitutional expert Dr Aziz Bari. The justification to sack, according to him, is because the prime minister refuses to tender advice effectively stand in the way to opening Parliament.

"But I doubt such will happen," says Aziz.

Whatever it is, should Muhyiddin dilly dally or worse, ignore the Rulers' call, that he does at his own peril. It's like committing political harakiri, I would say.

The prime minister cannot afford to incur the wrath of the people. Just take a look at the comments by the rakyat biasa on social media and one could feel how fiery that wrath is.

NB: Later in the evening, Friday June 18, The Malaysian Insight reported: "Facebook and Instagram posts of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's decree for Parliament to sit which were removed earlier today have been reposted on the Istana Negara social media sites.

"However, the latest poster comes with a footnote that says the poster is an extract from the Istana Negara statement on June 16."

If I may add, the words "secepat mungkin" are not in bold.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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