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Malaysian PM seeks king's nod to declare state of emergency, sources say

A general view of the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is said to have met the king to inform him of a Cabinet decision to propose the declaration of an emergency.

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is reported to have asked the king to declare a state of emergency, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

The announcement was widely expected on Friday but a source later said it would not be so, and would not say when the announcement was to be made.

Mr Muhyiddin met the king for two hours at the Istana Abdulaziz in Kuantan to inform him of a Cabinet decision to propose the declaration of an emergency following a special meeting that ended earlier in the day.

Highly-placed sources told The Star that the king would have the final say as to when the state of emergency will take effect.

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"His Majesty is expected to meet his brother rulers soon to get their views too but suffice to say, they will support any decision made by the king," the source said.

A check with certain rulers confirmed that they had been informed of a special meeting.

Government officials emphasised that only political activities would be affected by any state of emergency being declared.

"It will be business as usual. Economic activities will carry on and there will be no curfews. In a nutshell, life goes on as we know it. This is for the good of the country in fighting Covid-19," the source said.

The proposed emergency would include the suspension of parliament, which was scheduled to reconvene in November.

The government was scheduled to propose the budget for 2021 on Nov 6, and there have been questions over whether the premier would be able to muster a majority to push that through.

Defeat on the budget would count as a vote of no-confidence in Mr Muhyiddin and could trigger an election. Emergency rule might mean the budget will not be put to a vote.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim denounced the move as an attempt to cling to power, according to a Reuters report. "We have a government which lacks legitimacy and which knows it would fail to demonstrate majority support in parliament, and is using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to justify its abuse of power."

Mr Muhyiddin, who came to power in March with just a two-seat majority in parliament, has been under pressure since Mr Anwar's declaration that he now has majority support in parliament to oust him.

Under the constitution, the king can declare a state of emergency if he is satisfied there is a threat to national security, the economy or public order. Malaysia last declared a national emergency in 1969 after civil unrest and race riots.

The executive would gain powers to make rules and approve the expenditure necessary to ensure public security. The sources did not disclose the full range of measures that Mr Muhyiddin would seek to implement.

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