Mahathir Calls for New Body to Replace Government in Virus Fight
(Bloomberg) -- Malaysian former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad told the king that a national operations council should be set up to replace the ruling coalition that has failed to contain the pandemic.
He offered himself to lead the council if it were to be set up, Mahathir said in a briefing after a 45-minute audience with the monarch on Thursday. Any such council must come from the government, he said, adding he didn’t think it would happen.
“I’m afraid the situation of Covid and also the economy and social problems will get worse, because there is no idea how to handle this issue,” he said. “We have a lot of ideas on how to handle these problems, but if there is” no council set up, we can’t implement them, he said.
Malaysia’s king has met with key political leaders, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, over two days to discuss the outbreak amid public anger over the handling of the pandemic even after an emergency was declared in January.
The nation returned to a hard lockdown this month amid record infections that have so far killed more than 3,000 people.
Mahathir said a so-called unity government wasn’t discussed and would only work if they had the right people. A national operations council may be successful because the group would include experts and academicians, and not just politicians, he said. In the 1969 emergency, a similar administrative body was formed, which effectively became the defacto government.
He said the king isn’t against the sitting of parliament but that it’s up to the government to decide whether to reconvene it. Malaysia last Friday said it was studying the possibility of allowing lawmakers to participate online.
When asked by the monarch if elections could be held next year or anytime, the former premier said it was “dangerous” as polls could cause a spike in virus cases.
“This is seen as a failed government. Politically, this government is not recognised by the people,” Mahathir said. The council can be “given power to tackle the problems faced by country,” he added.
Malaysia’s monarch began moving center stage last year to fill a vacuum created following the abrupt resignation of Mahathir as premier. The king resolved a week-long impasse by tapping Muhyiddin Yassin to become prime minister without a parliamentary vote.
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