Malaysia deploys riot police as MPs try to march to parliament

Monday’s session was canceled due to the coronavirus, with a fragile government under pressure over its response to the pandemic.

Opposition members of Malaysia’s parliament were met by riot police and threatened with arrest on Monday as they tried to march to Parliament House, amid heightened political tensions over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. .

Parliament began a “special session” last week after months of closure stemming from a state of emergency declared in January due to the coronavirus, with opposition politicians raising concerns about the number of infections and deaths. He slammed Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his cabinet over the continued rise in numbers. Lockdown is becoming increasingly strict.

The session was scheduled to last until Monday, but was canceled after a large number of coronavirus cases were confirmed in Congress.

Instead, dozens of parliamentarians, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and two-time prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, gathered at Merdeka Square in central Kuala Lumpur to call on Muhyiddin to resign. They had planned to walk to the Parliament Buildings, 2 kilometers away.

“Thousands of people have died, but he is willing to stay,” Mahathir was quoted as saying by online newspaper Malaysiakini. Mr Anwar said Mr Muhyiddin had lost legitimacy.

Muhyiddin has been under intense pressure since coming to power in March 2020 after his power grab led to the collapse of the government that won in historic elections in May 2018. Mr. Muhyiddin was appointed prime minister after convincing the king that he had the necessary support in parliament to govern, but he has been regularly asked to prove his own majority.

Anger has grown in recent months as the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise even as many people continue to suffer from prolonged lockdowns. The number of infections in the country surpassed 1 million last month, with another 160 deaths reported on Sunday.

Opposition politicians encounter a wall of riot police blocking the road to parliament in Kuala Lumpur. [Arif Kartono/AFP]

“We are seeing growing opposition to the Muhyiddin government from students, activists, contract doctors, and ordinary Malaysians. And we are seeing the government use the police as a means to suppress legitimate dissent. Charles Santiago, an opposition lawmaker from the hard-hit Klang region, wrote on Twitter. “But these protests will not stop, because people have been through it and their patience has run thin. It is embarrassing to continue to stay in power despite being exposed, especially when the It’s embarrassing when good governance is needed to reduce the impact of a pandemic that is wreaking havoc.”

On Saturday, hundreds of people took part in socially distanced “lawang” (fight) rallies in Kuala Lumpur, where junior doctors quit their jobs a week ago over pay and conditions. Both incidents are being investigated by police.

The National Assembly conducted mass testing after two people tested positive among the more than 1,000 politicians and staff members working in the National Assembly, and as a result, 11 people have been infected with the new coronavirus infection. This was discovered and the event was cancelled.

Opposition politicians point out that many factories and offices in Malaysia remain open despite the country’s high infection numbers, and say the positivity rate in parliament has exceeded that set by the World Health Organization. It was pointed out that this was below the upper limit of 5%.

Politicians were also among the first to be vaccinated in Malaysia. Just over 20 per cent of Malaysian residents now have both jabs and the government is accelerating the program.

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