LETTER | The wise king

Zaid Ibrahim


LETTER | What a relief that an imminent proclamation of an emergency under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution did not take place last night; people in the know tell me that the King had decided to consult his brother rulers on Monday.

We have today a wise and magnanimous Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He has decided to consult the other Malay rulers. He need not do so. Article 150 requires him to be personally satisfied that a state of emergency exists.

Like King Solomon, he opted to do the right thing. When God asked Solomon what he wanted most; Solomon replied: "Give me an understanding mind to govern my people and the ability to discern between good and evil."

An emergency is not a matter that to be taken lightly. The sovereign power of government disappears; the laws and processes will no longer be applicable. It will bring the country into unchartered territory, and we will never know what will happen to all of us under a one-person rule.

We do not know where such an event will take us. We had one emergency in 1969, but we were fortunate that the then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak was a democrat. He could have prolonged the one-man rule, but he did not. We went back to democracy in 1974.

Covid-19 has been dealt with great success in this country without emergency powers. So what is it that a proclamation of emergency will do that will help us fight Covid-19 better? None.

Some say that only by an emergency we can do away with the Sarawak election as well as one in Batu Sapi. Many countries with more deaths and Covid-19 infections conducted their elections with no adverse result. The USA has now more than 230,000 deaths, yet they will never stop the election.

We need more standard operating procedures (SOPs) from the Ministry of Health to make the election safer. The Election Commission just has to be innovative on polling day as well as in regulating rallies. We do not need to abandon the election.

To fight Covid-19, we need the same thing, capable leaders who make good policies and consistent, practical guidelines; dedicated health officials and a responsible public who keep themselves apart, clean their hands and wear masks.

I do not want to talk much about the state of affairs of our politics, but things will be better if our politicians show some character and discipline. When that happens, the perception of a crisis will disappear.

For a start when political alliances are put in place such as Perikatan Nasional; then members of Parliament need to remain loyal to that alliance. The prime minister seems to have the support of Umno and its president, PAS and Barisan Nasional, and those MPs from Sarawak. That being so, there is no reason for him not to have the majority support in Dewan Rakyat.

Even if in the unlikely event the speaker allows a vote of no confidence to take place next week, the prime minister should win easily. After all, look at Pakatan Harapan. Friends of Anwar Ibrahim are no longer that friendly.

A top DAP leader has already said it will not support Anwar if Umno or PAS or anyone not to DAP's liking supported him. All sorts of conditions are placed on the opposition leader that it's impossible to see how he can garner enough votes.

If the budget fails to pass (again unlikely) then the King may ask someone else to be prime minister, until such time Covid-19 is no longer a threat to public health to have a general election. Leaders come and go, but good leaders accept defeat. Look at Najib Abdul Razak. He could have at the worst moment of his life used the emergency rule to save himself, but he did not. We must not forget this.

There is no need to panic and ask for a proclamation of emergency. Things are very much under control under the present prime minister. He should not listen to some of his insecure supporters who do want to lose their position at all costs. The prime minister and the country do not need a proclamation of emergency. They are both safe.

ZAID IBRAHIM is a former law minister.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.