KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Wednesday (Jun 9) after a royal audience that he has pleaded for the king to not extend the state of emergency in the country.
Speaking to reporters after leaving the palace, he noted that when the ruling coalition first proposed enacting a state of emergency, King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah did not accept the suggestion. The ruler had only agreed after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin raised the issue for a second time.
“We have voiced our opinion that continuation of the emergency will result in losses to the country, not help in the management of COVID-19 and will affect the economy especially for the rakyat (people) in the lower-income groups," Mr Anwar said.
"We see that all the steps that can be done to help the situation do not require the state of emergency. So we pleaded with the king to prevent the continuation of the emergency as much as possible.”
Mr Anwar added that it was right for the king to say that he has enacted the state of emergency to comply with the spirit of the constitutional monarchy and in accordance with the prime minister’s advice.
The Parti Keadilan Rakyat president also touched on the issue of parliamentary sitting, which has been suspended since the declaration of emergency.
He noted that the king had earlier indicated that the parliament may convene on an appropriate date, based on the advice of the prime minister. Despite this, parliament has not been convened, he said.
"There are varying perceptions as though these things are not done,” Mr Anwar said.
When asked by reporters on whether there was any discussion on the formation of a new government, Mr Anwar said: “That is a matter that does not arise for now.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the king kicked off meetings with leaders from both sides of the political divide, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin being the first to arrive at the palace in the morning.
In a Facebook post, the palace said the meeting lasted an hour. "The pre-Cabinet meeting is among the weekly activities or main routine of Al-Sultan Abdullah to discuss and exchange views with the prime minister on government affairs and issues," it said.
Other political leaders also received an invitation to meet the ruler. Amanah's president Mohamad Sabu and Democratic Action Party's secretary-general Lim Guan Eng were both at the palace on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Lim told reporters after the meeting that the king is very concerned about the COVID-19 crisis and its economic impacts on people.
"His Majesty is the hope now. Because parliament is now not sitting, there is no space for the people to voice their issues," he said.
"We also hope ... that they get assistance, especially in terms of economic assistance ... and the vaccination aspect, which should be speeded up to all people in Malaysia."
According to media reports, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is the chairman of Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, would be called for an audience with the king on Thursday, while Parti Islam Se-Malaysia confirmed that its president Abdul Hadi Awang had received the invitation letter on Jun 4.
Prior to the Wednesday meetings, it was reported that discussions on the current political landscape and the COVID-19 situation were are likely to be on the agenda.
In January, the king had declared a state of emergency across the nation to curb the spread of COVID-19. It is set to end on Aug 1 or earlier depending on the state of the pandemic.
The state of emergency has put parliamentary sitting and state assemblies as well as elections on hold, while economic activities were allowed to continue.
Opposition MPs and activists set up a Committee for Ending the Emergency Declaration in March and launched a petition to appeal for an end to the state of emergency.
Mr Muhyiddin, who is under pressure from the opposition parties as well as coalition partners to prove the parliamentary support he commands, has reiterated that he would advise the king to dissolve parliament once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.
Malaysia is currently under renewed movement restrictions as record high daily new infections and deaths were recorded.
A statement issued by the national palace on Wednesday afternoon said the king will hold a special meeting with the other Malay rulers on Jun 16.
The meeting is related to Malaysia's efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implementation during the state of emergency, said the statement.
The special meeting is the second of its kind held at the national palace since Sultan Abdullah ascended the throne in January 2019. The first meeting was held on October 25, 2020 at the national palace.
Additional reporting by Vincent Tan and Amir Yusof.