M'sians calling for Muhyiddin to resign after parliament session's chaos, explained

TL;DR: The king is "disappointed" that MPs were misled, while Muhyiddin defended himself.

Faris Alfiq | July 30, 2021, 03:10 PM

The Malaysian parliament has reconvened after seven months, but all that fell into chaos on the third day of the session (July 29).

Social media users started using the hashtag #KerajaanDerhaka (Defiant Government), many of whom forced Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, together with his de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan and Parliament Speaker Azhar Harun, to resign immediately.

The movement has garnered more than 60,000 mentions and is currently trending on Malaysia's Twitter.

So what led to this movement and what's in store for Muhyiddin next?

Emergency Ordinance

In order to uncover the events leading up to the uproar in Malaysia, it is important to understand the significance of the emergency ordinance.

Back in Jan. 12, as the daily count of Covid-19 cases was creeping up, Malaysia's Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin declared a state of emergency nationwide to curb the spread of the virus.

He made the proclamation under the advice of the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The nationwide state of emergency was supposed to end on Aug. 1, but could also end earlier or later depending on the Covid-19 situation.

Malay Mail reported that the extension or early termination of the ordinance "will be decided by an independent task force consisting of both government and opposition members of parliament (MPs), as well as health experts who will advise the King."

In addition to that, under the emergency proclamation, parliament and state legislative assemblies cannot meet until it was decided by the Agong.

This meant that politicians were unable to make new laws or amend existing laws.

Parliament can reconvene: Agong

On Feb. 24, however, the Agong said that parliament can reconvene during the emergency. It was reported that he "expressed his views that parliament can convene during the enforcement of the emergency period". 

Malaysia's Council of Rulers then met on June 16, and supported the Agong's stance to reconvene parliament as soon as possible. They also collectively decided that the state of emergency need not extend beyond Aug. 1.

Months after the proclamation, Muhyiddin finally announced that the parliament will reconvene for a "special sitting" from July 26 to Aug. 2.

Law minister claimed emergency revoked

As parliament reconvened on July 26, some members of the house expressed dissatisfaction as the session was only to listen to ministerial statements.

One of the statements heard was given by the de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan, who claimed that the emergency ordinance was revoked during a cabinet meeting on July 21 and will not be renewed further on Aug. 1.

The announcement caused much uproar in the house as opposition MPs were not given a chance to debate on it in parliament.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said that the emergency ordinances were promulgated through the king and its revocation should be done through parliament. 

Malaysiakini reported him as saying, "I am uncertain if what was announced by the (law) minister has received royal consent. It was not mentioned."

He continued, "If this has not happened, the announcement (by the law minister) is invalid. It is an insult towards the Malay rulers, especially the Agong."

Palace did not grant approval for revocation

True enough, during the third day of the special sitting (July 29), the king released a statement which said that he was "extremely disappointed" regarding the claim of revocation of the emergency ordinance.

In his statement, he said that he met with the law minister together with the attorney-general virtually to discuss the proposal to revoke the emergency ordinance and debate it in parliament, but that was not implemented.

The king further mentioned that the statement made by the law minister was "inaccurate" and "misled" members of the house.

As soon as the statement was read in parliament, opposition MPs shouted derhaka (defiance to the sultan) to the ruling coalition, forcing them to step down.

Parliament in lockdown

Soon after the statement was read, the Speaker of the House Azhar Harun adjourned the session to the afternoon.

In total, the session was adjourned four times, citing positive Covid-19 cases in parliament. The parliament session is slated to resume on Monday, Aug. 2.

In the meantime, while parliament was in recess, the attorney-general, and several cabinet members' vehicles were seen at the prime minister's residence, Malay Mail reported.

Gov't followed due processes: PMO

In response to the debacle, Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri released a statement urging citizens to "remain calm", and reaffirmed that Muhyiddin's government still has the support of over 110 MPs.

Later in the day, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying that the government "observed and followed all the due processes under the Federal Constitution" when it announced the revocation on July 26.

The statement also said that Muhyiddin had written a letter to the king on July 23 advising the ruler to revoke the ordinance, and again in an audience with the king on July 27.

It also highlighted the following, "The Agong, while exercising his constitutional functions or functions under federal law, is to accept and act in accordance with the Cabinet’s advice or the advice of a minister acting under the general authority of Cabinet."

This implied that under any circumstances, the king is to accept and act under the Cabinet's advice, including its decision to revoke the emergency.

PM faces resignation pressure

Muhyiddin's statement was seen as a defiance of the king's orders.

Several MPs then released statements calling for Muhyiddin and his cabinet to step down and resign.

They include former Malaysian prime ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Razak, UMNO chief Zahid Hamidi, as well as Pakatan Harapan head and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

In a rare sight of unity by Malaysia's opposing forces, they claimed that Muhyiddin has failed to be transparent, and has also disrespected the king.

Something that's perhaps interesting to note is that Muhyiddin's allies in Perikatan Nasional also advised him to step down and relinquish his position.

What's next for Malaysia?

As the government defends its position, the ball is in the king's court.

The Vibes reported that the king has 48 hours to decide and remove the prime minister should he want to.

The king can summon all MPs to determine if the prime minister still has the majority support of the house.

The parliament will still be in session on Monday, and any new development will unfold then.

Top image by Mohd Rasfan/AFP and Chris Jackson via Getty Images