CERTAIN politicians and organisations have contested the proclamation of emergency order by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to mitigate the spread of the Covid19 pandemic in Malaysia.

Hence, it is imperative for Malaysians to acknowledge that managing security challenges to the country is the primary responsibility of the government.

Determining the appropriate approach to mitigate these challenges is also the sole function of the country’s security management actors.

The management of a global security threat to a country, however, is normally strengthened by the declaration of such a threat as an eminent danger by specific international organisations.

The act of declaring a security challenge as an eminent security threat — particularly detrimental to the state, its people, their lives and livelihoods — is termed as securitisation.

A securitisation here, therefore, is an act of declaring a security issue as a real security threat, which must be mitigated with utmost urgency, through extraordinary strategies.

Such an act resulted from threat perception analysis by state elites, international bodies and non-state actors, including experts, political parties, civil society, the general public and the press. The execution of the security strategies, however, is the sole function of the state.

Non-state actors could only securitise and propose the solution to mitigate the threat for implementation by the state. In the first quarter of last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) securitised the Covid-19 pandemic as a threat to global human life and livelihood.

Nonetheless, most countries, including Malaysia, devised their own strategies in combating these threats in accordance with their resources, financial positions and political will.

Nationally, for example, Malaysia under the administrations of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, Tun Razak Hussein, Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had conducted several of the same moves by using different strategies for different security threats based on the elites’ perception at the very time they occurred.

Tunku ensured security in the May 13 ethnic conflict in 1969 through an emergency proclamation, and used the National Operations Council (NOC) as its security management coordinator.

Razak acted against the danger of escalating big power rivalry in Southeast Asia during the Cold War period by formulating the principle of peace, freedom and neutrality for the region, signed by Asean in 1971.

Hussein acted on an inter-party conflict, which affected the functioning of the Kelantan state legislative assembly in 1977 by declaring an emergency and setting up an NOC-style administration to regulate the state election.

In the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Dr Mahathir set up a National Economic Action Council. These actions, legitimised by most Malaysians, proved effective and beneficial to the country’s national security management and regional peace.

The administration of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin securitised the pandemic through two phases of the securitisation act, using extraordinary approaches.

The first was in March last year, before WHO acted on the pandemic at the global level. It was “to prevent the spread of Covid-19 which could claim the lives of Malaysians, as it has thousands of people in other countries”.

This resulted in the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the introduction of economic stimulus packages for the people.

The Muhyiddin administration declared its new strategies in mitigating the pandemic through pro active action to enhance the strategies taken in March.

This involved a proclamation of emergency by the king on Jan 12 and the enforcement of a three-tier MCO by Muhyiddin on Jan 11, denoting the second phase of acting for the country.

Its objectives were widely announced to the nation. In essence, it is to protect Malaysia’s human, economic, public institutions and national security, as well as to enable stakeholders to secure urgent administrative, legal, financial and/or logistic requirement s.

Although this was implemented on the advice of Muhyiddin’s cabinet, the proclamation of emergency was the prerogative of the king in the interests of the country and the people. Contesting this move, therefore, is inappropriate and against the crucial interests of the people and nation.

The writer is an analyst of strategic and security issues, and was a member of parliament for Parit Sulong, Johor, 1990-2003

Read more: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2021/01/659963/contesting-emergency-inappropriate
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