Before leaping into the abyss, there is still time for political leaders to rethink and avoid a nightmarish error, seven former Malaysian Bar presidents say.
It is widely reported that the Cabinet has on 23 October approved a decision for the prime minister to advise the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to declare a state of emergency in the country, the details of which are not yet made known.
Full comments will therefore have to be reserved until after the necessary details are disclosed.
However, for a matter of such urgent and menacing import, preliminary comments cannot be postponed until after it may have become a fait accompli.
There is, of course, a need to effectively address the Covid-19 situation in the country. It is a health issue. It is not a security issue. There is no violence, or threat to the security of our nation.
Covid-19 can be appropriately battled under existing laws. The effective measures undertaken to overcome the first wave earlier this year are testament of the absence of any need for any declaration of emergency. The Covid-19 situation must not be used as an excuse to declare a state of emergency.
If the predominant objective of the suggested declaration is to suspend Parliament and to gain emergency powers, then it will obviously be an unlawful design which, if unchecked, will disenfranchise and deceive Malaysians.
It is a justiciable matter, as can be seen from the UK Supreme Court’s decision in R (Miller) v the Prime Minister . This is the case, notwithstanding any ouster clause.
Our Constitution, to be able to continue to protect the citizens, is always a living document in need of purposive construction by the courts. If it shall come to that, we are confident that the judiciary will rise to the occasion.
Before leaping from a vertical cliff into the abyss, there is still time for our political leaders to rethink and to avoid a nightmarish error which will plunge Malaysia into the darkest days of her history. The resultant catastrophe will be a self-inflicted and politically motivated one. It will sacrifice the people, just to perversely benefit the political ambitions of a few.
We urge all Malaysians to speak up to save our nation.
Zainur Zakaria, Kuthubul Zaman, Yeo Yang Poh, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Ragunath Kesavan Christopher Leong and Steven Thiru are former presidents of the Malaysian Bar