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COMMENT | Declaring emergency would be unconstitutional

COMMENT | I have since March scrupulously adhered to the convention that it is not proper for a former public officer to comment on the merits or demerits of policies and decisions made by his successor.

But last night’s announcement that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin requested the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare a national emergency imposes a responsibility on me not to remain silent. Hence, with a heavy heart, I pen my thoughts on the legality of the proposed move.

A Proclamation of Emergency under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution has tremendous negative consequences on the nation’s body politic and the exercise of freedoms and liberties by our citizens. Hence, the reluctance to rush into it.

The opprobrium attached to emergencies led the government in October 2011 to revoke four proclamations which had marred our national psyche. The prime minister was then deputy prime minister. Because the ramifications of an emergency are massive, the Constitution has placed many safeguards against its use. The most obvious and most frequent abuse occurs when the prime minister of the day feels threatened as to his security of tenure. Hence, checks and balances are built into Article 150, which has 13 sub-articles within it. It is a comprehensive code and is the starting point of any discussion...

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