Civil societies launch #BantahDaruratMuhyiddin campaign against Emergency, cites assault on liberties
A man watches a live telecast of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s speech at a restaurant in Shah Alam January 12, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — The CSO Platform for Reform, a coalition of 75 Malaysian civil society organisations (CSOs), has labelled the Emergency announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as an assault on Malaysian’s civil liberties.

Saying the decision is detrimental to parliamentary democracy, the group is now calling on the public to reject the proclamation through an online campaign using the hashtag #BantahDaruratMuhyiddin — Malay for “protest Muhyiddin’s emergency”.

“In his statement, the prime minister also issued a strong warning that stern action will be taken upon anyone who tries to interfere with the government’s efforts to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s economy,” the coalition said.

“We view this move by the prime minister as an assault on our civil liberties and detrimental to parliamentary democracy especially when the prime minister stated that Parliament and state assembly sittings will be suspended for the duration of the emergency.

“The pronouncement does not demonstrate a real necessity as expressly set out in Article 150 of the Federal Constitution to justify the unfettered executive power to Muhyiddin, especially when MCO was already announced the night before,’’ it added.

On Tuesday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong said he had assented to declare a state of emergency in the country, after the advice by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, just a day after the latter announced a new movement control order (MCO) in several states.

The Emergency will run until August 1 or earlier, as deemed necessary by an independent special committee consisting of government and opposition MPs, and health experts.

Last year when protesting Muhyiddin’s failed attempt to declare an emergency, activists had used the hashtags #BantahDarurat and #ProtesDarurat (Malay for “protest the Emergency”).

The current hashtag campaign seems to direct the opposition squarely against Muhyiddin and his Perikatan Nasional (PN) government for announcing the Emergency, rather than other parties.

It also stated that it is concerned over the lack of a check and balance mechanism throughout the emergency period and call on the government not to prioritise political opportunism, and instead to refocus on flattening the Covid-19 curve.

“While we think the public health crisis must be handled urgently through powers under other laws such as MCO, the overreach of executive power without the need for Parliament or state assembly oversight is a tragedy of governance.

“Separation of power is key to a democratic government. Any move that allows the functions, personnel and powers of governance to be concentrated in one single body must be viewed with the greatest caution, due to the absence of check and balance against possible abuse of power and curtailment of the people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights.

“The CSO Platform for Reform firmly believes in good governance via institutional reforms, and we demand that the government uphold our fundamental human rights and not use the Covid-19 pandemic as a tool to justify actions, such as the emergency, to undermine our democracy and civil liberties,’’ said the statement.

The co-secretariat of the coalition is handled by human rights groups Pusat Komas and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).