Did we not see this coming?
The signs were all there – business communities saying that another lockdown would not benefit the economy; various social media users expressing their concern at the surge in numbers and wanting a tightening of restrictions, the discontentment among the parties, especially between Bersatu and Umno.
Most telling of all was when Umno did not come to a decision at its 6 January meeting but opted to wait until its general assembly meeting on 31 January for a decision on whether to part company with Bersatu.
This gave the prime minister room to manoeuvre, and that he did. He managed to convince the Agong to proclaim a state of emergency until 1 August, which is six months down the road.
A constitutional lawyer wrote that when the prime minister announced the state of emergency, it would seem he now has almost absolute power to do anything.
So can Muhyiddin do almost anything he wants until 1 August? The state of emergency also allows him and his cabinet to introduce laws without the approval of Parliament. I am not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, nor someone learned in all the intricacies of constitutional law, but how scary is this?
The PM said he was committed to holding polls as soon as it was safe to do so. Remember, elections are only due in 2023, and that is two years away. Many things can happen between now and then.
Since the reason for the state of emergency is to curb the spread of Covid-19, the prime minister and his people will have to work at getting this pandemic under control. If he manages, by some quirk of fate, to get the pandemic under control, he might stand a good chance of boosting his image ahead of the next general election.
In the US, Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election because he mishandled the pandemic, among other issues. So, if Muhyiddin cannot rein in the pandemic in Malaysia, he will quite likely share the same fate.
My guess is the vast majority of the people know this state of emergency has little to do with the spike in Covid infections. The cases have been rising for months, and the Ministry of Health was not getting its act together.
We cannot lay the blame for the recent spike on the UK B117 variant because as of 11 January, there was only one case, according to the ministry director general.
So, Malaysians are mainly responsible for the spike, and we have only ourselves to blame for the soaring numbers.
But instead of helping the people and trying to stop the spike by getting the vaccines into the country as quickly as possible, the government is dilly-dallying.
Just as the state of emergency was announced, Malaysia added 3,309 cases ahead of the current movement control order.
So, pray tell, with many businesses still running, how will this stop the spread of Covid-19?
Indonesia and Singapore have already started to vaccinate their population. If Malaysia can hasten procuring the vaccines, it might help break the chain of transmission.
Meanwhile, Malaysians must continue to follow the standard operating procedures and support the economy.
But, for now, the whole country is being held to ransom, not because of the spike in Covid cases but because of the greed and ambition of one man and his party that wants to hold on to power, no matter the consequences.
So, what do the people think of all this power play? Should we be surprised? Not really. The prime minister tried it before. It was a clever move, and he now has the time to consolidate his position.
Senior Minister Sabri Yaakob agreed that “one of the advantages the government would enjoy during the state of emergency is being able to amend laws faster through the issuing of ordinances instead”. He gave simple examples like the imposition of fine and jail sentences on those who go against the SOPs.
The prime minister might not need any of his coalition parties. He now has vast powers and can use emergency provisions to consolidate his power. From now until 1 August – six months – is a long time, and he seems to have all the time he needs.
Who knows what other ordinances there are that he can use for his benefit. Who is going to stop him? Anyone?
Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time