AP, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s government said it will not extend a coronavirus emergency beyond Aug. 1 as Parliament reopened Monday after a disputed seven-month suspension amid a worsening pandemic.
The emergency, which allowed the government to halt Parliament since January and rule by ordinance without legislative approval, has been slammed as a ruse for embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to stay in power amid challenges to his leadership.
Opposition lawmakers slammed the government’s failure to tackle the pandemic despite a national lockdown since June 1. Malaysia’s total cases passed 1 million Sunday, up by eight-fold from the whole of last year and are up 77% since the lockdown. Deaths have also climbed steeply to near 8,000.
After the special, five-day session of Parliament opened, Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said the government would not seek an extension of the emergency.
Opposition lawmakers were also taken by surprise when Takiyuddin announced the government has annulled all emergency ordinances on July 21. They questioned why the annulment wasn’t made public earlier and details were hazy on how it affects measures such as penalties imposed on those breaking COVID-19 protocol.
Muhyiddin, in his briefing to the lower house, said Malaysia, like other countries, was not spared from the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. He defended his government’s policies, saying economic aid has been distributed to poor households and to businesses severely hit by the lockdown. Vaccinations have also been accelerated with the majority of the population expected to be inoculated by the year’s end, he said.
“This government is not perfect but this government does not allow the people to suffer and always works to save lives,” Muhyiddin said.
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged Muhyiddin to step down and said his unelected government, which took power in March 2020, has failed.