Malaysia lawmakers protest Parliament closure as ploy by Prime Minister

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (AP) — Police blocked opposition lawmakers from marching yesterday to protest a two-week lockdown of Malaysia’s Parliament, which they consider another ploy for the embattled prime minister to dodge a no-confidence vote.

With a crucial parliamentary session due, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin instead postponed it and Parliament will be shut for two weeks. The Health Ministry said Parliament was deemed a high-risk venue because four of 11 COVID-19 cases were detected among staff and others were suspected to be the fast-spreading Delta variant.

Lawmakers and activists questioned the timing of the announcement of Parliament’s closure, which came after the king rebuked Muhyiddin’s government on Thursday for misleading Parliament on the status of ordinances it issued during the seven-month coronavirus state of emergency.

The opposition immediately filed a motion of no-confidence against Muhyiddin that was expected to have been raised yesterday.

Dozens of lawmakers gathered near Parliament held a banner calling for the resignation of Muhyiddin and his Cabinet.

They slammed the government for cowardice and said they must eventually face the people.

Muhyiddin has led an unstable, unelected governing alliance since March 2020 after he initiated the downfall of the reformist government that won the 2018 elections. Parliament has been shut down for several months just after he took office and since January this year, after the king approved his plan for an emergency that has failed to tackle the pandemic.

“This government has failed to carry out its duties but is continuing to cling to power,” said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Apart from mismanaging the pandemic, he said Muhyiddin has also abused his power to bypass Parliament and the king in withdrawing the emergency ordinances.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called for the resignation of the entire Cabinet. “Only through this way, this prolonged political turmoil can end and focus can be fully given to efforts to resolve the health, economic and social crises that has plagued the country for more than 17 months,” Mahathir said in a statement.

The lawmakers dispersed peacefully, as a water-cannon truck and riot police armed with shields and batons shut off the road heading to Parliament.

Last week’s sitting of Parliament was the first of the year and was held after Muhyiddin caved to pressure from the king, but debates were banned in the session held only to brief lawmakers on the pandemic and related issues.