Agong to hold discussions with Malay rulers on June 16

Istana Negara today issued a statement confirming the Malay rulers will meet on June 16. The announcement affirms Twentywo13’s report published last Friday regarding the possibility of such a meeting to discuss the current situation in Malaysia.

Istana Negara, had in a brief statement, said the special discussion was initiated and will be chaired by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

“The meeting will discuss initiatives to combat the spike in Covid-19 cases during the state of emergency. This is the second time such a discussion is being held at Istana Negara after Al-Sultan Abdullah ascended the throne as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 31, 2019. The first such meeting with the Malay rulers was held on Oct 25, 2020, at Istana Negara,” the statement read.

Al-Sultan Abdullah could use the June 16 meeting to consult his fellow Rulers, as they could, among others, discuss the possibility of a National Operations Council running the government temporarily, or cut short the state of emergency so that Parliament can reconvene to ensure accountability and to restore transparency.

The statement from Istana Negara comes after the Agong granted audiences with leaders from major political parties, an exercise that started earlier today.

PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and Parti Amanah Negara leader Mohamad Sabu were among those who met Al-Sultan Abdullah today.

Anwar and Lim, when met outside the palace, said they shared their views with the King about the country’s current economic situation and the way the Covid-19 pandemic was being fought.

Anwar also mentioned the need for Parliament to reconvene.

These high-powered meetings, taking place face-to-face amidst the ongoing total lockdown, have raised eyebrows.

Some have tried to downplay the sessions, calling them “routine”. However, the gravity of these meetings cannot be underestimated.

The royal institution is apolitical – or should be seen as apolitical – and discussions will be with the government of the day. However, Al-Sultan Abdullah had granted audiences with leaders from both sides of the aisle.

If this were “routine”, the Agong could have met the leaders online, or even scheduled the discussions after the lockdown ends, slated for June 14. However, the lockdown could be extended.

Certain quarters remained restless over the recent turn of events in Malaysia – the spike in Covid-19 cases, political instability, indefinite suspension of Parliament and economic uncertainty.

The Sultan of Selangor had yesterday labelled the Covid-19 vaccine distribution in the state as “unfair”. He was shocked to hear that Selangor – the biggest contributor to the national gross domestic product (GDP) and with a population of 6.5 million – has only received 615,210 doses of the vaccine.

Such royal rebuke from Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah is not new. Last October, the Selangor ruler expressed concerns over the political situation in Malaysia, saying the people were “bored” and “disgusted” with politicians who are often fighting for power.

Cracks within the Cabinet have become more apparent in recent times, with the latest being the spat between two Senior Ministers from different political parties – Umno’s Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

The lack of communication between leaders is also apparent.

Two weeks ago, Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, an Umno leader herself, had called for Parliament to reconvene.

On June 4, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin said the reopening of Parliament can only take place once herd immunity is achieved. Two days later, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said that the government is researching ways to hold “hybrid” Parliamentary sessions.

For the record, Al-Sultan Abdullah had, in February, said that Parliament could reconvene despite the country being in a state of emergency.