Covid chaos in Malaysian parliament after king rebukes government

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a session of the lower house of parliament on Monday. The king has sharply criticised his government. Photo: Reuters
Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a session of the lower house of parliament on Monday. The king has sharply criticised his government. Photo: Reuters

A rare sitting of Malaysia’s parliament was disbanded in chaos on Thursday after opposition parties and some of the governing coalition demanded Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resign, hours after the country’s king reprimanded the government.

As the session was put on ice, lawmakers were locked inside to be screened for coronavirus after two parliamentary staff members tested positive during the day.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had earlier sought to table a no-confidence motion in Muhyiddin. “If he has any integrity left he should resign,” Anwar said, accusing the prime minister of using emergency powers to dodge scrutiny.

Anwar’s gambit came shortly after King Abdullah complained the government did not consult him as required over the revoking of emergency rule and did not allow debate in parliament.

While the king’s role is mostly ceremonial, his sign-off is needed for anything to do with emergency rule, which gives the government decree powers and is due to end on Sunday.

The current parliamentary session, which began on Monday and in which votes and debates are banned, was only permitted by Muhyiddin after heavy pressure from the king, opposition and the biggest party in his own coalition, which had earlier demanded an end to emergency rule and on Thursday accused him of treason for by-passing the king.

Parliament had been suspended since January after Malaysia was put under emergency rule during a second wave of coronavirus infections.
A third lockdown imposed in May, as a third wave took hold, has done little to stem the spread, with daily case numbers quadrupling to over 17,000 by Wednesday.

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