By Jerry Choong | Malay Mail

Chairman of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 Thomas Fann said the suspension of Parliament is an extremely drastic measure, and that the EO overreaches the Constitution and is disproportionate. – SHAFWAN ZAIDON

A group of seven non-governmental organisations have joined a growing number of court challengers against the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s recourse to a nationwide state of Emergency, arguing that parliamentary consent is required to do so.

The group comprises Bersih 2.0, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, the Center for Independent Journalism, Aliran, the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia, and Save Rivers; their suit was filed by the legal firm AmerBON, Advocates at the High Court here today.

Constitutional lawyer Edmund Bon who is acting for the group told reporters that this suit differed from others that had been recently filed against the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

“For us, any EO should be tabled for debate in Parliament as soon as possible, per Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution,” he said during the virtual press conference announcing the suit.

According to Bon, the clause makes it mandatory for any Emergency proclamation to be presented at both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, which he said has not been dissolved.

He added that if it not done, the proclamation shall cease to have effect.

“But if the EO suspends Parliament without dissolving it, this means the MPs cannot convene to table and discuss the emergency. So in effect, it is a paradox of sorts.

“The EO also appears to be a form of circumventing constitutional safeguards by suspending Parliament. So we are arguing that this is something which should be interpreted and determined by the court,” he said.

Bon is confident the suit will proceed relatively quickly and that the court will enable his legal team to extract the sealed copy by the end of this week.

“The courts tend to act quite quickly on this, so we expect the case management to be heard within a week or two,” he said.

Chairman of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 Thomas Fann said the suspension of Parliament is an extremely drastic measure, and that the EO overreaches the Constitution and is disproportionate.

“As citizens and public-spirited, interest groups fighting for reform, the suspension of Parliament affects our work greatly as we are unable to access and seek recourse during parliamentary sittings on matters of concern.

“We believe the rule of law should be preserved and the spirit of the Constitution adhered to, where there is a clear separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, and that no one branch of government should subjugate the others,” he said in the same virtual press conference.

Asked if the NGOs’ suit is tantamount to challenging the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, whose reserve powers include calling for an Emergency on the Prime Minister’s advice, Fann said this is not the case.

“Rather, we are seeking declarations that require the judiciary to interpret Article 150 of the Federal Constitution and to give its opinion. We are not challenging the powers conferred on the King to call for an Emergency,” he said.

On January 12, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah declared a state of Emergency following advice from Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Since then, two other lawsuits have emerged challenging the validity of the Emergency proclamation, most notably by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan, a politician known to be aligned to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar’s suit filed last January 26 is challenging Muhyiddin’s advice to the Agong to declare Emergency, the suspension of Parliament, and the postponement of elections for the duration of the Emergency.

Khairuddin’s suit filed last January 29, similarly claims that Muhyiddin did not have the parliamentary legitimacy to advise the King to declare an Emergency on grounds that the Pagoh MP no longer commanded the majority in the Dewan Rakyat at that time.

The Emergency took effect on January 11 and is supposed to last till August 1, or until the Covid-19 crisis ends.