Encouraging signs in fight against Covid-19

There have been claims that the next few weeks will be critical to show that the calls by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers are taken seriously; that Parliament should reconvene any time now and there should not be any more dragging of feet by the government.

If this is not done, this would be tantamount to thumbing a nose at the Rulers. This is expectedly so by some career politicians, who have been harping on these claims to pursue their political goals and motives.

At any rate, the people’s well-being and lives don’t seem to be of concern or interest to them any more. Fighting Covid-19 seems to have taken a back seat in their pursuit of their personal advancement and power but the government-of-the-day doesn’t seem to be perturbed.

This could be seen in the ramping up of the on-going National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, the implementation of the National Recovery Plan as announced by prime minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently, and a host of other people- and business-friendly relief measures by the Perikatan Nasional government.

Those measures continue to be intensified with targets set to ensure the phases of recovery for people and this country could be achieved, hopefully, before year end.

Already, although still in its infancy, all the good signs are making its way into the NRP – the vaccination rate has hit the 6 million mark in daily doses, opening of all vaccination centres in the country seven days a week as announced by the Prime Minister and the deployment of vaccination mobile units in remote outlying areas, to name a few.

Over the past few weeks, there have been lots of divided opinions and views circling about the reconvening of Parliament following the statements issued by the King and the Malay rulers. Some views on the legal effect and enforceability of the King’s statement state that the Prime Minister has the exclusive power to seek a Proclamation of Emergency or to summon or seek a dissolution of Parliament while the King has the personal discretion to refuse a dissolution of Parliament.

The King in exercising his functions under the Federal Constitution is required and bound to follow the advice of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet or any person or body of persons identified by Federal law. Similar views citing Article 40(1) and (1A) of the Federal Constitution said the King is required to and must act on the advice of the prime minister.

Former Attorney-General Tan Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali shared similar views if his recent statement on the matter is anything to go by. He said the King must act on the advice of the prime minister and the Cabinet in line with the provisions of Article 40 that clearly indicates all parties, including the rulers and the people, must obey and respect it.

He was quoted by a Malay newspaper as saying that “this is because the Constitution is the highest law in the country. His Majesty’s duties as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can be seen clearly in His Majesty’s Oath of Office as ated in Schedule 4, Federal Constitution.”

Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad in a joint statement with law lecturer Prof Datuk Shamrahayu A. Aziz similarly cited several reasons as to why the King should listen to the advice of the prime minister and the Cabinet as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. They also warned of attempts by some quarters to involve the palace in carrying out their wishes, although this is beyond the jurisdiction of the Malay rulers.

The office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong recently posted an excerpt of the statement by the King on its website. In it, it explained that the King would like to summon Parliament as soon as possible. The reason advanced is to debate and consider the Emergency Proclamation and Emergency Ordinance. However, the statement goes on state that vaccination is the only exit strategy for the country.

By way of illustration, the statement, among others, makes this point – that Parliament should reconvene as soon as possible. It, however, does not contain a timeline or indicator as to what criteria are to be satisfied in that would make it “possible” to reconvene.

A reasonable interpretation of the statement, therefore, should be that Parliament should reconvene as soon as it is practical and safe to do so, including taking the account the state of vaccination in the country.

The European Union and the World Health Organization have partnered to support our country’s Covid-19 response and emergency preparedness through a three-year programme and to tackle future pandemics. Such important partnership by foreign entities should in a way inspire and spur us to do the same collectively together and be just as positive and committed to win this battle against Covid-19.

Hamidah Hasan

Kuala Lumpur.

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letters , covid-19 , pandemic


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