By Lim Kit Siang
WHY is the Attorney-General Tan Sri Idris Harun evading the question whether he would prosecute anyone for alleging that the Emergency was declared because the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had lost the majority in Parliament?
This question has become pertinent because of two contradictory statements by Cabinet Ministers; firstly, the assurance by the Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah yesterday that the Government will differentiate between criticism and fake news; and secondly, the statement by the de facto Law Minister, Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan in an earlier joint press conference with Saifuddin that it would be a criminal offence under Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 for anyone to allege that Muhyiddin had the Emergency declared because he had lost majority in Parliament and would be liable to be fined up to RM100,000, jailed up to three years, or both.
Which is which? Whose will shall prevail, Saifuddin or Takiyuddin’s?
The assurance by Saifuddin that the purpose of the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 is not to curb media freedom and prevent any parties from criticising the Government is of no value unless the AG makes his position clear whether he would prosecute any person under the fake news Emergency Ordinance.
I had asked whether nephrologist Dr Rafidah Abdullah and the three Pakatan Harapan leaders, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu would be charged under the fake news Emergency Ordinance; the former for her tweet about the problem of Dua Darjat 2.0 in the national vaccination roll-out and the latter for their joint statement of January 12 on the Emergency Proclamation.
Although such prosecution would be problematic because of the retrospective effect of the Ordinance, the relevant and pertinent issue was whether the Ordinance was designed to prevent future tweets like the one by Rafidah in the national vaccination rollout or future media statements like the one issued by the three Pakatan leaders on January 12.
Convene the Parliament now
Why is the Muhyiddin Government evading these questions, as well as whether and when the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 was presented to the Cabinet for approval?
And why the Cabinet did not suggest that before the Ordinance was gazetted that there should be a period of public feedback from various organisations and individuals?
All political parties in Malaysia want the pandemic to end as early as possible and want to see a successful rollout of the COVID-19 national vaccination campaign.
In fact, the authorities should take a leaf from US President Joe Biden, who announced that every American adult would be eligible for a coronavirus vaccination by May 1 and set July 4, their Independence Day, as a target for a return to some normalcy.
What can Malaysians look forward to on August 31 or Malaysia Day on Sept 16?
I have advocated the acceleration of the COVID-19 national vaccination rollout to shorten the timeline for its completion so that normalcy and economic restoration can happen in the third or fourth quarter of this year but are the authorities working on this possibility?
Instead, we have the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021 on fake news on COVID-19 and the Emergency proclamation, which is most divisive, disruptive and subversive of public trust and confidence.
A Cabinet Minister has said that “seven or eight more” Opposition MPs will defect to support the Prime Minister.
Why is then the Government still refusing to convene Parliament, especially when the Yang di Pertuan Agong has made it very clear that Parliament can be convened under an Emergency to enable Parliament to perform its “check-and-balance” role on the Executive? – March 14, 2021.
Lim Kit Siang is a DAP party adviser and the MP for Iskandar Puteri.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.