Prominent Group of Lawyers: Emergency Declaration to Suspend Parliament Can Be Challenged in Court

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A prominent group of lawyers consisting of former Malaysian Bar presidents said today it would be an unlawful design and a justiciable matter if the predominant objective of the suggested emergency declaration by the federal government was to suspend Parliament and to gain emergency powers.

Shafwan Zaidon

In a statement, the group of law experts said this can be seen from the United Kingdom Supreme Court’s landmark constitutional law case of R (Miller) vs the Prime Minister (2019) on the limits of the royal prerogative power to prorogue the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

“Our Constitution, to be able to continue to protect the citizens, is always a living document in need of purposive construction by the courts.

“If it shall come to that, we are confident that the Judiciary will rise to the occasion,” they said.

The aforementioned case concerned whether the advice given by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Queen Elizabeth II that Parliament should be prorogued in the prelude to the UK’s departure from the European Union was lawful.

Subsequently, the eleven-justice panel of the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the prerogative power of prorogation was justiciable and the ongoing prorogation of Parliament was both unlawful and void.

The court had then deemed it unlawful as it had “the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive”.

The group also cautioned such a move by the government, adding that the resultant catastrophe will be a self-inflicted and politically-motivated one.

“It will sacrifice the People, just to perversely benefit the political ambitions of a few,” they added, urging political leaders to reconsider a potential nightmarish error.

The law experts also said there was no violence or threat to national security, aptly pointing out that the Covid-19 situation that needed to be effectively addressed was a health issue and not a security issue.

“Covid can be appropriately battled, under existing laws.

“The effective measures undertaken to overcome the first wave, earlier this year, are testament of the absence of any need for any declaration of Emergency.

“The Covid situation must not be used as an excuse to declare a state of Emergency,” they added.

Yesterday, Muhyiddin and several other government leaders attended an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at the latter’s Istana Abdulaziz in Kuantan.

Speculation had been rife that the Perikatan Nasional government is seeking to declare a state of emergency as Malaysia struggles to contain the spike in Covid-19 infection that has also hurt the economy.

Reports have so far suggested that Putrajaya is seeking a dubious so-called state of “partial emergency”, also dubbed as “economic, health, or political emergency”.

The statement issued today was signed by by former Malaysian Bar presidents Zainur Zakaria, Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Yeo Yang Poh, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Ragunath Kesavan, Lim Chee Wee, Christopher Leong, Steven Thiru and Datuk Mah Weng Kwai. – MMO