IT should be obvious by now that extending the Emergency when it ends on Aug 1 is not an option.
The Rulers have made it clear that they aren’t keen on an extension. And that’s also the sentiment on the ground.
It’s safe to say the Establishment and supporters of the government would want the same.
There’s still a good six weeks to the end of the Emergency, and the Prime Minister won’t need to announce its conclusion.
But Cabinet members must take the necessary steps and plan the days leading to the end of this situation.
There’s nothing worse than senior Cabinet members exhibiting symptoms of the dreaded foot-in-mouth disease – contradicting and covering themselves in shame.
The run-up to Aug 1 would be on engaging with stakeholders – especially civil servants, policy makers, business groups and the media – on preparations made leading to that date.
This is where strategic communications come in, so a compromise beckons, and not because the government is perceived as reacting unwillingly to the advice of the Rulers.
Politicians and lawyers will always have their arguments, and each time they make a statement, it doesn’t mean they’re right even if they sound convincing.
Even well-qualified judges at the Federal Court vote accordingly on the verdict after hearing the points of law.
But the bottom line is, the PM decides when the Emergency should end, and if he sees fit to recommend an extension, he will need the King’s consent.
The King can decide on his own, without having to seek the consensus of the other Rulers.
But His Majesty has prepared himself well. Ahead of Aug 1, he has rightly sought the advice of the Rulers, and they have told him two things – end the Emergency by August and have Parliament convene as soon as possible.
I’m sure the PM and Cabinet fully respect the views of the King and the Rulers.
Constitutional experts have outlined the vague points on who can really end the Emergency, but given our reverence for our Rulers, no Malay politician would risk losing their popularity by ignoring the palace.
Also, it’s procedurally right for the PM to first hear the views of the independent special committee on the Emergency, and the Cabinet, too.
If not, what would be the point of forming the special panel if their recommendations aren’t even heard and considered?
Only when he has digested their feedback and formed his views can he seek an audience with the King to let His Majesty know his decision.
I’m sure the PM is explicitly aware of the political effects of an extension to the Emergency.
There would be little reason for him to do so knowing the King is against it. Besides, public opinion echoes that sentiment, too.
However you slice it, when the PM first convinced the nation that the Emergency was necessary to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, most Malaysians agreed with it.
After all, our leaders should be focused on ensuring we were safe from the deadly virus. In fact, during MCO1.0, public perception was that the government was doing a good job.
But then, we went downhill. We are at MCO3.0 because we have gone from bad to worse. It’s gone off the rails with the numbers still increasing and the pandemic raging as we scramble with vaccinations.
Have we come to a point where we’re supposed to celebrate when our daily number of Covid-19 cases drop to 4,000-odd? And are we serious about embracing leniency when there’s talk of it?
At 4,000-odd, we’re surely not out of the woods because the forest is still on fire, so we can’t ease off the brakes.
Our politicians gave in to the demands for Ramadan markets, interstate travel last December for Christmas and New Year, and then Gawai, just to score populist points. Unfortunately, that all added to new clusters.
We can’t continue to concede to the pressure of our communities because the Health Ministry has already said it needs at least four months to flatten the curve, so the ban on inter-district travel for Gawai in Sarawak is a step in the right direction.
Having communicated with key MOH officials struggling with the pandemic the last two years, this writer was told how tired, frustrated and even angry they’ve been.
They’re aware of the balance needed to keep the country safe and also, the economy running.
After all, these officials have families and friends who have shared with them the difficulties in keeping their jobs and businesses going. People are desperate, and many are starving as they struggle to put food on the table.
But as these frontliners continue with their thankless work, let’s not make it difficult for them with silly calls for a general election, which could only send many of us to the morgue.
Don’t be convinced by those who tell us that it’s safe to hold elections because they’re the same people who campaigned in the Sabah election last year and caused the entire country to suffer.
Many of these campaigners, which included top politicians, flouted the standard operating procedures, and even ignored quarantine rules. So, if you believe these politicians will keep their promises, then you will believe anything.
Moving ahead, as the Emergency period ends and Parliament resumes, let’s be prepared for all the usual drama, the likes of plots to overthrow the government and previously-unthinkable political alliances – mostly to keep players out of jail or to form a new government and enjoy the perks.
Then there will also be politicians who should retire yet still think they are PM material, and politicians masquerading as theologians who use religion to justify their political acrobatics.
We really need to stay safe from Covid-19, and now, also from such politicians.
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.