Malaysia’s former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah on Tuesday (Apr 20) that the Covid-19 state of emergency is turning the Malays against the king.
He asked the king to lift the royal order for the emergency issued in January.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Dr Mahathir, 95, spoke to members of the media on Tuesday (Apr 20) after handing over to the palace a petition asking the king to revoke the royal order. The petition contained 39,000 signatures.
The royal order had given emergency powers to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. This, as well as the suspension of parliament, was turning Malaysia into a “dictatorship”, according to Dr Mahathir.
He told reporters that it was “unusual” for Malays to dissent openly against the country’s royals, adding he believed that the government had not informed the king about the “feelings of the Malays”.
“This is very unusual, for the Malays to go against their own rulers. It is quite clear that very large numbers of Malays are now angry as they are suffering because of this darurat (emergency).”
Dr Mahathir also said that he wanted Sultan Abdullah to be informed of the people’s sentiments before any other actions might “increase the anger of the people”.
SCMP reports that there has been public criticism over a news report based on unnamed sources alleging the king had participated in distributing a small batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines late last year, which has not been approved yet in Malaysia.
Health Minister Adham Baba has denied these allegations.
The queen, Tunku Azizah Aminah, has also been the subject of criticism due to a social media post.
When a netizen asked her in a comment if the palace chefs had already got vaccinated against Covid-19, she replied, “Dengki ke? (Are you jealous?’).”
In the backlash on Monday night, thousands of netizens started using #Dengkike as a hashtag.
In a blog post entitled “The Rule of Law”, which Dr Mahathir published before going to the palace on Tuesday, he wrote that the state of emergency had never been about the pandemic.
He took aim at Prime Minister Muhyiddin, writing, “Let us be honest. This declaration of a state of emergency is not about fighting Covid-19. Not at all.
It is about politics. It is about a weak government wanting to stay in power. For the people the price to pay is horrendous. They lose their freedom of speech and their right to change the government. Many live in fear of being called up for questioning, for detention and harassment.
“In the meantime, the economy is shrinking as the government grapples with the constraints on normal economic activities.”
Adding that the government “is not even functioning properly” because ministers have been unable to manage the country’s political, economic, social and health issues, Dr Mahathir ended his blog entry by writing, “Wither the rule of law.”