KUALA LUMPUR – The proclamation of emergency in the Batu Sapi parliamentary constituency to prevent a by-election from going ahead is the best move by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19, which is now in the third wave.
An expert on the constitution, Prof Dr Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz said if an emergency was not declared, the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-election would have to be held within 60 days of the seat falling vacant in line with Clause 1 Article 54 of the Federal Constitution.
She said the government needed an extraordinary law to be able to ignore the provision in the constitution so that the Batu Sapi by-election could be postponed or canceled.
“How can we ignore the ‘requirement’ under Article 54? Only an emergency allows, as provided by Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.
“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong has been presented with the data on COVID-19, which is likely to spread and become more serious (if the Batu Sapi by-election is held). His Majesty is satisfied with the data and also based on past experience His Majesty listened to the advice by the government and the cabinet to declare a state of emergency in Batu Sapi ” she told Bernama.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah yesterday made a Proclamation of Emergency for the Batu Sapi Parliamentary constituency, in effect cancelling the by-election for the seat.
The Proclamation of Emergency based on Clause (1) Article 150 of the Federal Constitution was made after studying the explanation given by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who had presented his advice based on a decision taken at the Cabinet meeting.
“With this declaration, whatever proceedings that had started for the purpose of conducting the by-election for P.185 Batu Sapi would not be continued for the sake of controlling and preventing an outbreak of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and another date will be set for the by-election.
The Election Commission (EC) had set Nov 23 for nomination, Dec 1 for early voting and Dec 5 for polling for the Batu Sapi by-election.
The by-election was called after Batu Sapi Member of Parliament Datuk Liew Vui Keong died of lung infection on Oct 2.
Asked whether the proclamation of emergency could also be made for the Gerik parliamentary constituency in Perak and the Bugaya state constituency in Sabah, with both seats now vacant following the death of their respective elected representative, Shamrahayu said if the situation demands and the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the people in the affected areas, the government could do so.
However, she said, it would depend on the situation then and the reason for an emergency to be proclaimed there.
On the duration of the emergency period, she said the constitution did not set the time limit, but a resolution would be made by Parliament to inform when the emergency would be lifted.
Considering that this is the first time an emergency was declared in Malaysia because of public health, Shamrahayu advised the public to not panic and continue with their normal life as the government has already given the assurance that there is no curfew or military-style rule and people’s lives are not affected.
For Prof Dr Mohammad Fuad Othman, a political analyst at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), the proclamation of emergency was to cancel the Batu Sapi by-election to avoid a fourth wave of COVID-19 transmission.
He said if there is a need to hold a by-election, it can be held as long as the constituency involved is not a COVID-19 red zone, with the EC setting the necessary standard operating procedures for the election according to new norms.
A stricter SOPs should be enforced, such as house-to-house campaigns, ceramah (political talks) are not allowed, instead only done through social media, and introduce postal vote for registered voters staying outside the constituency, he added.