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The former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad called the king of the country on Tuesday (April 20) to revoke a state of emergency in Covid 19, stating that the Royal order – made in January on the advice of the state – turned Malaysia uncharacteristically against their royal families.

Premier Muhyiddin Yassin’s emergency power and parliamentary suspension have transformed the country into a ‘dictatorship,’ the 95-year-old said.He was speaking to reporters after presenting a petition of 39,000 signatures to the national palace.

The elder statesman’s comments come after a surge of veiled criticism of the country’s queen, Tunku Azizah Aminah, after she appeared to respond to a commenter on Instagram in a flippant manner.

Mahathir Calls King Covid-19
Image Source: South China Morning Post

The king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, is also in the news after a media report alleged – based on anonymous sources – that he was involved in the domestic distribution of a small batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines, which have not yet been licensed in Malaysia.The controversies arise in the wake of an increase in Covid-19 cases and as Muhyiddin’s government struggles to instill urgency in its vaccination campaign.

Mahathir described the open expression of dissent by Malays, the country’s majority ethnic group, against the country’s hereditary rulers as “unusual.” The country’s nine royal families have long been regarded as guardians of Malay culture and the Islamic faith.

Authorities have previously responded to vehement criticism of the sultans and their families with sedition inquiries.“This is very unusual, for the Malays to go against their own rulers,” Mahathir said. “It is quite clear that very large numbers of Malays are now angry as they are suffering because of this darurat [‘emergency’],” he said.

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Mahathir Calls King Covid-19
Image Source: South China Morning Post

He said he believed the government had not informed Sultan Abdullah – who is serving a five-year term as the national king – about the “feelings of the Malays”. Mahathir said that one of the main reasons for this unhappiness was the perception that the King’s decision was the statement of emergency made in January.

Instead, Sultan Abdullah is a constitutional monarch and must, in many respects, act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

Mahathir told Sultan Abdullah that he conveyed these concerns before any further action could “increase the people’s rage.”In a commentary published earlier on Tuesday, Mahathir, who was ousted as Prime Minister by Muhyiddin in an elaborate political coup in March last year, reiterated his conviction that the prime minister declared the emergency to cling to power rather than to address the public health crisis.

Mahathir Calls King Covid-19
Image Source: South China Morning Post

After the change of government, Muhyiddin has been the target of repeated attempts by Mahathir and others to depose him by defections of MPs and no-confidence votes.The government’s decision to suspend parliament while the state of emergency is in effect has given Muhyiddin the power to rule by decree.

“The country is now ruled by decree. There is no longer any democracy,” Mahathir wrote on his blog
“The voice of the people in a functioning democracy is via parliament. But it is not open. The only description we can make of this government is that it is a dictatorship.”
Online, Malaysian social media users watched Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah in reply to a commentary on Instagram on Thursday with a careful focus.In a now deleted post, the Queen said that she had spent an evening with chefs who prepared the dishes in the palace kitchen. One commentator asked whether the chefs had been vaccinated against Covid-19. She wrote in reply: “Dengki ke? [‘You’re jealous?’].’ Thousands of social media users started using the hashtag #Dengkike on early Monday night.

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After the hashtag became famous, the queen deactivated her account, but she returned to the photo-sharing website on Tuesday morning.Meanwhile, other commenters alluded to an Asia Sentinel article alleging that Sultan Abdullah returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates last December with 2,000 Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines, which he then distributed to his relatives, business associates, and friends. Some social media users warned that discussing the article’s contents in public could be considered derhaka (‘treason,’) and cited previous investigations into people who criticized members of the country’s royal family.

The Covid-19 vaccine, which is produced in China, has not yet been approved in Malaysia. Adham Baba, the Health Minister, has refuted the allegations in comments to local media. The presidential palace has yet to make a formal statement on the subject. This Week in Asia was unable to independently verify the statements made in the paper, and inquiries to the offices of top health ministry officials Noor Hisham Abdullah and Muhyiddin received no immediate response.

Source: South China Morning Post

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