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COVID-19 mismanagement: Is M’sia heading towards Tunisian-level crisis?

Publish date: Sun, 01 Aug 2021, 06:41 PM

WITH the Malaysian Government now under pressure from both the public and Istana Negara, an academic urged the former to take “radical measures” to stem COVID-19 and the economic fallout triggered by it.

“I can see parallels to what is happening in Tunisia to Malaysia. The North African country is undergoing street protests due to their Government’s mismanagement of COVID-19 and the economic crisis triggered by it.

R Paneir Selvam

“So, if the Malaysian Government don’t act on the people’s grouses, we may have the same problem here,” HELP University Faculty of Business, Economics and Accounting and Institute Crime and Criminology senior lecturer R Paneir Selvam told FocusM.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin-led Perikatan Nasional Government is now facing massive pressure from the public for its apparent failure to contain COVID-19.

After much pressure from Istana Negara and the Opposition, the Government finally held a special Parliamentary sitting to discuss about the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and the Emergency Ordinances (EO).

However, Law Minister Tan Sri Takiyuddin Hassan shocked MPs when he said the EO was revoked on July 21 itself, raising questions whether the Yang-Pertuan Agong had consented to it.

As Takiyuddin was hesitant to provide answers, the Agong swiftly issued a statement saying he had not consented to it. The monarch also rebuked the Kota Bharu MP and Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun for allegedly misleading the Dewan Rakyat.

The Government is also facing backlash from contract medical officers (MO) and the public, with more than 2,000 people turning up yesterday for the Lawan protest.

In Tunisia, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has sacked Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country.

Following mass protests, Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked Mechici and suspended the Parliament, adding he would take over for now to deal with the crises.

Touching on the matter, Panier Selvam said the Government could expect more protests from the public if the administration continues to offer piece meal solutions to the people’s plight.

“Despite the scare of Delta variant, people are still thronging the streets to protest. It shows how desperate they are.

“Personally, I have spoken to many people, including Grab drivers and durian sellers and they all say the same thing. The feel the Government has abandoned them and disinterested to help,” he stated.

Dilly-dally tactics off the table!

If the Government persists in its current position, Panier Selvam said that the Conference of Rulers (MRR) would have little choice but to intervene on the matter.

“The public, in general, believe they have been patient long enough but waiting is no longer an option given the dire situation everyone is in,” Panier Selvam stressed.

However, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) political analyst Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani disagreed that what is happening in Tunisia may happen in Malaysia.

Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani

“I agree that the underlying issues causing the protests may be the same but our situation is quite different compared to Tunisia.

“For starters, our Agong does not have the power to sack the Prime Minister. Plus, Tunisian politics is influenced by foreign powers unlike Malaysia,” he said.

Having said that, Azizuddin echoed Panier Selvam’s sentiments by saying that the Government cannot simply ignore the widespread anger towards COVID-19 mismanagement, given that Istana Negara itself had openly rebuked the administration.

He added that the administration had also erred in its judgment by delaying the Parliamentary proceeding for too long, despite the Agong’s repeated calls in the past for the Government to reconvene the august house and debate the EO and COVID-19 mitigation plans.

“In my view, the Agong acted within his jurisdiction by making the statements and debate EO under Article 150 (3) of the Federal Constitution.

“The monarch is also in a difficult situation as His Majesty cannot simply give royal assent to the EO, without them being tabled at the Parliament first,” Azizuddin noted.

On tomorrow’s sitting being postponed, the academic opined that Mahiaddin may be trying to buy time, given claims that he had lost majority at the Dewan Rakyat.

“I believe the Prime Minister must talk to Istana Negara to iron out a solution to the mess. This is an unprecedented situation where the Government is getting rebuked on both fronts; the public and monarch.

“And the Agong may be forced to call for special meeting of MRR, should the Government continue to look away from all this,” Azizuddin mentioned.

On the EO brouhaha, he said that the Government must take responsibility over it and Takiyuddin may have to relinquish his Cabinet post.

“The Prime Minister must take responsibility over it too as this is very damaging politically. You can stall the Parliamentary sitting for now but we have a session scheduled for next month.

“And I can’t imagine what is going to happen, given that the Government must table Budget 2022 later this year,” Azizuddin remarked. – Aug 1, 2021.


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