KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin reiterated on Monday (Mar 1) that he will dissolve parliament once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
In a speech taking stock of his one year in office, he said: “The main focus of this government at this moment is to steer this country clear of the double whammy of health and economic crises. Once the pandemic is over, which I hope will be very soon, I will advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve the Parliament.”
“Until such time, my colleagues in the Cabinet and I will continue to carry out our duties and responsibilities to the best of our ability.”
He added that when the election is held, it will be left to the people to decide whether the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government should be re-elected.
“You are free to choose and that is what democracy is all about,” he said.
Mr Muhyiddin’s speech also touched on other governance issues, including plans to spur economic recovery in 2021, alongside jobs creation and strengthening the digital economy.
The prime minister said that Malaysia's' economic position is expected to improve in 2021. According to January projections by the International Monetary fund and World Bank, Malaysia's economy is expected to grow at 7 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively, he said.
Even with economic activities resuming, he said, restrictions on movement were still needed at international borders, interstate as well as for social and business activities where social distancing was not possible.
"The reopening of these activities can only be done once immunisation has reached a certain level in terms of population coverage," he said.
To further assist people during this period, Mr Muhyiddin said the government would provide targeted assistance for the poor and those who have lost their income and increased business support, especially for those unable to operate or reopen after the Movement Control Order (MCO).
Other measures include focusing on the public delivery system, and prioritising the government's digitalisation agenda to transform Malaysia's economy into a knowledge-based one.
On international travel, Mr Muhyiddin noted that a Reciprocal Green Lane arrangement was agreed with Singapore last year, while adding that the government would work to create similar RGLs with other countries.
READ: Singapore to suspend reciprocal green lane arrangements with Malaysia, Germany and South Korea for 3 months
Monday marked a year since Mr Muhyiddin took over the top post following the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government.
In the power tussle in Putrajaya last year, he emerged as the candidate who likely commanded the majority support of MPs to be the prime minister.
His immediate task was to combat the spread of the COVID-19 infections, which were first detected in January 2020.
His PN government placed Malaysia under a lockdown known as MCO on Mar 18, and now close to a year later, Malaysia has recorded more than 300,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.
During his one-year administration , the prime minister has narrowly survived a series of leadership tests, the most recent being the passage of the 2021 national budget in November last year.
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has maintained that he was the one who commanded a "strong, formidable, convincing majority" of MPs to form a new government, while two MPs from United Malays National Organisation - part of the PN administration - publicly withdrew their support for Mr Muhyiddin in early January this year.
The same month, a state of emergency was declared across the country as the public healthcare system was said to be at its breaking point. This led to the parliament being suspended, while the executive and judiciary branches continued to function.
In response to criticisms over the legitimacy of his administration, Mr Muhyiddin had previously stated that he would advise the king to dissolve the parliament to pave way for a general election when the pandemic is under control.
Last Wednesday, the king said that parliament can convene during a state of emergency, a move that could open the door for the opposition to bring forward a new confidence vote against Mr Muhyiddin.
At the moment, several key states in Malaysia are under a lockdown dubbed MCO 2.0, albeit one with looser restrictions in an attempt to balance lives and livelihoods.
Malaysia's national COVID-19 vaccination programme, which aims to cover 80 per cent of its 32 million population, began last Wednesday with Mr Muhyiddin and Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah being inoculated with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.