Window dressing at its best?

One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency.

– Arnold H. Glasow, US businessman

Power once obtained is difficult to relinquish.

Politics is the art of getting into power and once that is achieved the next part begins, the scramble and art of trying to stay in power.

There is nothing wrong with this; it is precisely the nature of politics.

However, there are times when political leaders or political parties might fear they are losing the reins of power.

In such situations, the desperation to hang on to power can drive them to take extreme measures.

One such desperate act was attempted in October 2020 by the Perikatan National government.

On October 25 2020, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong diplomatically rejected the request for emergency very much to the delight of the mainstream Malaysian public.

In times of national emergencies, countries have provisions embedded into their constitution to proclaim a state of emergency and this is a necessity for the security of a nation.

Like many people, I am not against the proclamation of emergencies per se. However, such proclamations need to be used very sparingly and then only with genuine justification and extreme caution.

It only takes a small step to slide from emergency status to permanent dictatorship. History is littered with such examples.

After last year’s failed attempt to seek the King’s consent to proclaim an emergency, it seems Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin made yet another request to the King.

This time he has managed to convince the King of the need for such a need to contain the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus infections.

The Emergency Ordinance 2021 has now been gazetted and takes effect from January 11 2021 to August 1 2021.

Donald Trump must be positively green with envy that in Malaysia a proclamation of emergency can keep a government in power, suspending elections and parliament, with laws created with the stroke of a pen. Eat your heart out Donald.

Not many people and politicians are convinced of the need for an emergency.

It is generally thought that the pandemic can be managed by using existing public health laws and movement control orders as done successfully last year during the first wave.

Many in Sarawak also voiced their uneasiness as the situation here does not warrant an emergency. They highlighted that Sarawak ought to have been excluded from the emergency declaration.

Perhaps the past negative experience of declaring emergencies in Sarawak came to their mind.

The first negative experience came through the Emergency (Federal Constitution and the Constitution of Sarawak) Act which led to the removal of Stephen Kalong Ningkan as its chief minister.

Then, the May 13 1969 incident after the 1969 general election led to another state of emergency nationwide although Sarawak was not affected by the race riots in Malaya.

It is under this proclamation that we lost our oil, gas and sea territorial rights. An issue totally unrelated to the emergency and one that has drained massive natural and financial resources from Sarawak to this day.

It is speculated that the prime minister was placed in a difficult situation by Umno’s demands. It seems he managed to outmanoeuvre their planned declaration that he had a minority government.

Therefore, to continue helming the country an emergency was needed to be declared. If indeed this was the actual intention, it was a masterstroke.

He has also all this time managed to outwit all the other political heavyweights such as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Lim Kiat Siang. They all seemed to have underestimated our prime minister.

If this emergency is managed well and without any erosion of Sarawak rights, the Muhyiddin will indeed come out of this situation smelling of roses.

Perhaps our King saw the need for a period of political stability.

Personally, I think if there was a need for the emergency, perhaps it should have been done on a month-to-month basis; each monthly extension granted by the King after evaluating performance based on good governance in the preceding month.

I came across the following new word recently, ‘Agathokakological’, pronounced as a•tho•kak•o•log•i•cal. It means composed of both good and evil.

So, a state of emergency can be Agathokakological. At the end of the day, it depends on how it is used by the federal government.

Let’s pray for the sake of Sarawak and for all it is for good only.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.