Malaysian PM Resigns After Turbulent 17 Months In Office

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin waves as he arives at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on August 16, 2021, as he was expected to quit after just 17 months in office.
Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

Malaysia’s prime minister resigned and his government collapsed Monday after just 17 months in office, throwing the country into fresh political turmoil as it battles a serious coronavirus outbreak.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s tumultuous period in office came to an end after allies withdrew support, and he becomes the shortest-serving premier in Malaysian history.

With an election unlikely and no obvious successor on the horizon, Malaysia is set for a period of intense political horse-trading before a workable coalition takes shape.

After submitting his resignation to the king, the 74-year-old took a parting shot at enemies within his coalition.

“I could have taken the easy way out by casting aside my principles to remain as prime minister — but that is not my choice,” he said in a televised address.

“I will never work with kleptocrats.”

He has claimed that several MPs who pulled support from his coalition — including scandal-plagued ex-leader Najib Razak — had been angered that he refused to get corruption cases against them dropped.

The national palace confirmed the monarch, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah — who formally appoints the premier — had accepted Muhyiddin’s resignation.

It said in a statement Muhyiddin would serve as a caretaker prime minister until a replacement is found but the monarch was not in favour of polls now due to the outbreak.

Muhyiddin came to power in March last year without an election at the head of a scandal-plagued coalition following the collapse of a two-year-old, reformist government led by Mahathir Mohamad, a political heavyweight in his nineties.

But his government faced turmoil from day one — his majority in parliament was in doubt, its legitimacy was constantly questioned, and he faced a constant challenge from opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.

Criticism over virus response

 

Members of the media stand outside the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on August 16, 2021, as Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was expected to quit after just 17 months in office.
Arif KARTONO / AFP

 

The demise of his government extends a period of political drama for the multi-ethnic nation of 32 million.

After independence from Britain in 1957, Malaysia was ruled for over six decades by a coalition dominated by the country’s ethnic Malay Muslim majority.

But corruption scandals, unpopular race-based policies and increasingly authoritarian rule prompted weary voters to boot the coalition and its leader Najib out of power at 2018 polls.

The victory of Mahathir’s opposition alliance fuelled hopes for a new era, but it collapsed amid bitter infighting.

As well as questions over its legitimacy, Muhyiddin’s government faced mounting criticism over its failure to keep the virus under control — officials have now reported over 1.1 million cases and 12,000 deaths.

In January, he persuaded the king to declare Malaysia’s first nationwide state of emergency for over half a century, ostensibly to fight the pandemic.

But parliament was also suspended for months, leading to criticism that Muhyiddin was using the crisis to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Muhyiddin’s position finally became untenable after a group of once allied MPs withdrew support, depriving him of a parliamentary majority turned against him.

He made his last bid to stay in power on Friday, appealing to opposition MPs to back him in a no-confidence vote — but his offer was rejected.

There are a number of possibilities for the next government — the remnants of Muhyiddin’s government could try to form a coalition, while the opposition will also take a run at power — but it is wide open.

“His replacement is anybody’s guess,” said Oh Ei Sun, an analyst at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

-AFP

Malaysians Stage Anti-Govt Protest Despite COVID-19 Curbs

Malaysians gesture as they take part in a rare anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2021, despite a tough Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in place restricting gatherings and public assemblies. (Photo by Arif KARTONO / AFP)

 

 

Hundreds of black-clad Malaysians staged an anti-government protest Saturday in defiance of a ban on public gatherings under coronavirus curbs, piling pressure on the embattled prime minister to resign. 

The protesters, wearing masks and keeping a distance from one another, waved banners reading “failed government” as well as black flags.

It was the first sizeable demonstration in Malaysia for some time, as many had been reluctant to take to the streets due to virus curbs and for fear of getting infected.

But anger is growing at the government’s handling of the virus outbreak — which is escalating despite a lockdown — and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s attempts to keep his crisis-riven administration in power.

“We fight because while the people are suffering, this government is busy playing politics,” Karmun Loh, taking part in the protest in downtown Kuala Lumpur, told AFP.

“This government is… crippling the economy and also destroying our country’s democracy.”

Muhyiddin “is a terrible prime minister”, added demonstrator Shaq Koyok.

“He needs to step down.”

There was a heavy police presence and officers blocked attempts by protesters to enter a central square before the rally peacefully dispersed.

Organisers said about 1,000 demonstrators took part but police put the number at around 400.

 

Malaysians take part in a rare anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2021, despite a tough Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in place restricting gatherings and public assemblies. (Photo by Arif KARTONO / AFP)

 

Police told local media that the protesters will be called in for questioning as they had violated the ban on gatherings.

Muhyiddin took power at the head of a scandal-plagued coalition last year without an election following the demise of a reformist administration.

But his government is on the verge of collapse after allies withdrew support.

He came under renewed pressure to step down this week after parliament convened following a months-long suspension as part of a virus state of emergency.

His government was accused of dodging a vote that would have tested its shaky majority — drawing a rare rebuke from the country’s revered king.

Sunday is the final day of the six-month state of emergency but the nationwide lockdown will remain in place. Malaysia has reported almost 1.1 million virus cases and more than 8,800 deaths.

Singapore Blogger Ordered To Pay $100,000 For Defaming PM

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong waves as he arrives in a car at the High Court in Singapore on October 6, 2020. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

 

A Singaporean blogger was ordered Wednesday to pay almost $100,000 in damages for defaming the prime minister by sharing an article on Facebook linking the leader to a corruption scandal.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had accused Leong Sze Hian of spreading false claims about him over the article related to the money-laundering scandal at state fund 1MDB in Malaysia.

Critics say the case is the latest example of the tightly-regulated city-state’s government being heavy-handed and seeking to silence dissent online.

Singapore’s leaders have frequently turned to the courts to take on critics, ranging from political opponents to foreign media outlets, and insist such action is necessary to protect their reputations.

High Court Judge Aedit Abdullah found in Lee’s favour, and ordered Leong to pay him Sg$133,000 (US$99,000). Lee had sought Sg$150,000.

Leong’s lawyer Lim Tean described the verdict as a “wrong and deeply flawed decision”.

The premier took the stand at the start of the trial in October and accused Leong of making “malicious and baseless” allegations, which had undermined the government’s “integrity and honesty”.

READ ALSO: President Biden Calls For Assault Weapon Ban After Colorado Shooting

The article that Leong shared, originally published in a Malaysian news portal, alleged that Lee was the target of an investigation in neighbouring Malaysia over the 1MDB state fund.

Billions of dollars were looted from the investment vehicle in a scandal that involved Malaysia’s former leader Najib Razak and his inner circle.

Leong’s lawyer Lim had argued the libel suit was unnecessary as authorities had already denied the allegations, adding the prime minister had “picked on the defendant when there are many others” who had shared the defamatory article.

Rights groups frequently accuse Singapore authorities of resorting to tough laws to silence criticism.

In 2019, authorities introduced a law against online misinformation, which empowers ministers to order the blocking of social media posts they deem false, sparking criticism that it would chill free speech.

AFP

North Koreans Leave Malaysia After Ties Cut Over US Extradition Row

A bus carrying diplomats and staff members leaves the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month. Aliff NOR / AFP

 

North Korea’s diplomats in Malaysia shuttered their embassy and flew out of the country Sunday, after Pyongyang severed diplomatic ties over the extradition of a citizen to the United States.

Pyongyang announced the shock move Friday, labelling Malaysia’s extradition of a North Korean man an “unpardonable crime” carried out under “blind obedience” to American pressure.

The Southeast Asian country had been one of Pyongyang’s few allies but ties were already strained following the 2017 assassination of leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur airport.

READ ALSOAnti-Coup Protesters Defy Myanmar Junta’s Campaign Of Fear

A court ruling this month that Mun Chol Myong could be extradited to the United States to face trial for allegedly exporting prohibited items to North Korea in violation of sanctions proved the final blow.

After Pyongyang cut ties, Malaysia gave North Korean diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

On Sunday, the North Korean flag and a plaque were taken down from the country’s embassy — a large house in an upmarket area of Kuala Lumpur — and the gates were chained up.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song reads a statement outside the compounds of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month. Aliff NOR / AFP

 

Before departing, North Korean charge d’affaires, Kim Yu Song, accused Malaysia of siding with Washington in a “conspiracy” against Pyongyang, and committing a “large hostile act”.

Malaysia had aligned its policies with those of the United States, “which seeks to deprive our state of its sovereignty, peaceful existence and development,” Kim, North Korea’s most senior diplomat in Malaysia, told a large media pack.

– Illicit activities –
A group of North Koreans and their family members then departed on a bus.

They arrived later at Kuala Lumpur airport, loaded stacks of luggage onto trolleys and went to check in at the counters used by regular passengers.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song (L) is seen walking inside the compounds of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 20, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month. Aliff NOR / AFP

 

Kim confirmed to AFP the group, around 30-strong, was heading first to Shanghai.

Their flight for the city departed in the afternoon, although it was not clear how or when they would travel on to North Korea.

Malaysia had expelled the diplomats “in response to the DPRK’s unilateral and utterly irresponsible decision to sever diplomatic ties,” Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tweeted, using the official name of North Korea.

“This action is a reminder that Malaysia shall never tolerate any attempt to meddle in our internal affairs and judiciary, disrespect our governance system, and constantly create unnecessary tensions in defiance of the rules-based international order.”

Pyongyang’s decision to cut ties came after a visit last week by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to South Korea, part of an Asian tour to rally support against North Korea and China.

Malaysia denounced Pyongyang’s move, and announced it would close its mission in North Korea, whose operations had already been suspended since the murder of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.

North Korean embassy counsellor Kim Yu Song carries a box inside the compounds of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2021, after the country severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia in response to the extradition of a North Korean citizen to the US earlier this month.
Aliff NOR / AFP

 

North Korea operated embassies in about 25 countries as of December last year, according to Seoul.

Illicit activities are known to be rampant in these foreign missions, and Pyongyang has long been accused of using them for intelligence gathering, sanctions-busting and money laundering.

AFP

Malaysia Deports Over 1,000 Myanmar Nationals, Defying Court Order

An immigration truck carrying believed to be Myanmar migrants from Malaysia back to their homeland, is seen heading towards the Naval base in Lumut, outside Kuala Lumpur on February 23, 2021. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

 

Malaysia on Tuesday deported more than 1,000 Myanmar detainees back to their strife-torn homeland just weeks after a coup, despite a court order halting the repatriation and a storm of criticism.

The migrants, whom activists say include vulnerable asylum seekers, departed on three Myanmar navy ships from a Malaysian military base after arriving on packed trucks and buses under police escort.

The United States, the United Nations and rights groups had criticised the plan, while hours before the deportation a Kuala Lumpur court ordered it be temporarily halted to allow a legal challenge.

Activists were set to argue it should not go ahead as Malaysia would breach its international duties by deporting vulnerable people, and the Myanmar military’s seizure of power put them at even greater risk.

But the vessels later set sail carrying 1,086 detainees, with authorities giving no explanation as to why the court order had been ignored.

Amnesty International, one of the groups that had brought the legal challenge, said pushing ahead with the repatriation in defiance of the ruling was “inhumane and devastating”.

“This life-threatening decision has affected the lives of more than 1,000 people and their families, and leaves an indelible stain on Malaysia’s human rights record,” said Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, executive director of the group’s Malaysian office.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said Malaysia had “sent them back into the hands of a military junta known for persecuting those who flee the country for political reasons”.

Malaysian immigration chief Khairul Dzaimee Daud had offered assurances no members of the persecuted Rohingya minority — not recognised as citizens in Myanmar — or asylum seekers had been repatriated.

“All of those who have been deported agreed to return of their own free will, without being forced,” he said.

Rights groups have however raised doubts over authorities’ claims no asylum seekers were among those sent back, as the UN has not been able to do a proper assessment.

Authorities earlier said 1,200 detainees were to be deported, and it was not clear why the final number was lower.

– Refugees from conflict areas –

Officials insist those sent back had committed offences such as overstaying their visas, and the deportation was part of their regular programme of repatriating migrants from poorer parts of Asia.

About 37,000 foreigners were repatriated last year. Malaysia is home to millions of migrants who work in low-paying jobs such as construction.

It is rare for rights groups to launch legal challenges against deportations.

But they were prompted to do so by concerns about the worsening human rights situation in Myanmar since the coup, and that some of the migrants were vulnerable.

Activists have been growing increasingly alarmed since authorities blocked the UN refugee agency from accessing immigration detention centres in Malaysia in 2019.

This means the UN cannot assess whether foreigners are economic migrants looking for work or asylum seekers fleeing persecution and conflict, who would usually be granted refugee status and the right to remain in Malaysia.

In the latest case, the detainees were believed to include members of the Christian Chin minority and people from conflict-riven Kachin and Shan states, according to Lilianne Fan, international director of the Geutanyoe Foundation, which works with refugees.

Since seizing power at the start of February, authorities in mostly Buddhist Myanmar have gradually ratcheted up their use of force, with three anti-coup protesters killed in demonstrations so far.

Malaysia initially expressed “serious concern” at the coup, but just days later news emerged it had accepted an offer from the Myanmar junta to send warships to repatriate the detainees.

Six Dead, Nearly 50,000 Evacuated In Malaysia Floods

Residents walk along a road submerged by floodwaters in Mentakab in Malaysia's Pahang state on January 8, 2021, following heavy monsoon rains. Mohd RASFAN / AFP
Residents walk along a road submerged by floodwaters in Mentakab in Malaysia’s Pahang state on January 8, 2021, following heavy monsoon rains. Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

At least six people have died and nearly 50,000 evacuated in Malaysia after monsoon rains pounded the country’s east coast, authorities said Friday, causing what residents described as the worst flooding in half a century.

Authorities have stepped up rescue operations after locals complained they had to fend for themselves earlier this week.

Heavy rains continued to batter the region on Friday, swelling the number of people abandoning their homes to more than 47,000, officials said.

“I have lost everything. The water has covered my roof,” 59-year-old factory worker Tan Kong Leng told AFP, tears filling his eyes.

Floods hit the region during the rainy season every year and regularly result in mass evacuations; but those in the affected areas say this year’s are the worst in decades.

Many roads, including the main expressway that links the east coast states, have been closed.

The worst-hit state is Pahang, where around 27,000 people have been evacuated in recent days, according to the social welfare department.

In one village in the state cut off by floods, residents were evacuated in an excavator on Wednesday, while others were forced to swim through deep waters.

Tan, the factory worker, and his wife took shelter at his plywood factory. They had just minutes to put their clothes in their car and flee to higher ground before the fast-rising waters engulfed their home.

“I am sad. All my fittings and fixtures are destroyed. My biggest fear is that more rain will pour in the coming days. Look! There are dark clouds moving in fast,” he said.

In one of the worst-hit districts in Pahang, residents complained that narrow and rubbish-filled drains contributed to the deluge.

Mentakab resident Muhammad Fadzil Wahab said he and other locals have formed their own patrol units to prevent house break-ins.

“We scout the entire flooded village at night with our small boats and torch lights,” he told AFP.

“My family members are safe at the evacuation centres.”

Adding to the complexity of rescue efforts, Malaysia is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, reporting its biggest daily rise on Thursday.

But Fadzil said government help has started to intensify, including boats and military trucks.

“Thank Allah food, boats and medical assistance is now available,” he said.

 

AFP

Two Dead After Malaysian Helicopters Collide

 

Two people were killed when a pair of helicopters from the same Malaysian pilot school collided during a training flight, authorities said on Sunday.

Amateur video that has gone viral on the internet showed one helicopter falling into a wooded part of Kula Lumpur, while the other managed to land safely in a school field.

The transport ministry said both helicopters had taken off Subang Airport for a regular training session.

“Tragically… two crew members had perished in the crash,” Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said in a statement.

He said an investigation had been launched.

Helicopter flying as a hobby is gaining popularity among affluent Malaysians.

AFP

At Least 24 Rohingya Migrants Feared Drowned Off Malaysia

 

A Rohingya migrant is feared to be the only survivor from a boat carrying at least two dozen asylum seekers that are believed to have run into difficulty off the Malaysian coast near Thailand, a coastguard official said Sunday.

Mohamad Zawawi Abdullah, coastguard chief for the northern states of Kedah and Perlis, said the 27-year-old named Nor Hossain was detained by police after he swam to shore on the resort island of Langkawi.

“Based on the information from the police, the illegal Rohingya migrant had jumped off the boat that had 24 other people and that he was the only one who managed to swim to the shore safely,” Zawawi said.

A search and rescue operation had been launched, but another official told AFP that no bodies or survivors have been found.

It is not clear what happened to the boat.

Muslim-majority Malaysia is a favoured destination for Rohingya, who face persecution in their mostly Buddhist homeland of Myanmar, but authorities have in recent months been trying to stop them entering over coronavirus fears.

Many of the 700,000-plus Rohingya Muslims who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar three years ago have attempted to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on boats headed for Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia.

Zawawi said two coastguard aircraft and two boats have been deployed to search the suspected area.

Malaysia has stepped up maritime patrols since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in a bid to stop Rohingya boats from landing.

Although some have made it ashore many boats have been turned back, sparking anger from rights groups.

AFP

Air Peace Evacuates Stranded Nigerians In Thailand, Malaysia

An combination of photos showing Nigerians leaving Malaysia provided by the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission on July 11, 2020.
A combination of photos showing Nigerians leaving Malaysia provided by the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission on July 11, 2020.

 

An Air Peace aircraft is in the process of evacuating stranded Nigerians in Malaysia and Thailand, the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has said.

The Commission revealed this in a tweet on Saturday.

“Chartered @airpeace flight APK-7813 conveying Stranded Nigerians from Malaysia and Thailand departing Kaula Lumpur to Abuja and Lagos today with Evacuees from Malaysia and Thailand onboard,” the tweet said.

 

This is the first evacuation from both countries since the coronavirus pandemic instigated lockdowns across the world, according to NIDCOM.

The flight is expected to depart at 7am and first arrive at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, before proceeding to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

According to NIDCOM, all evacuees have tested negative to COVID-19 and will proceed on a 14-day self-isolation on arrival.

Thousands of Nigerians have been evacuated back home from across the world since the pandemic disrupted world travel.

In early June, the federal government said it has spent N169 million on the evacuation of Nigerians returning from overseas.

Since then, hundreds more have been returned to the country.

On July 4, at least 109 Nigerians stranded in India were welcomed back into the country.

 

Malaysia Slashes Rates To Record Low To Fight COVID-19 Impact

A woman walks along the Saloma Link Bridge in Kuala Lumpur on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

 

Malaysia’s central bank on Tuesday slashed interest rates to a record low to fight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and warned that the pace of economic recovery was uncertain.

The Southeast Asian nation has joined other countries worldwide in aggressively easing monetary policy, after the virus brought the economy to a standstill for weeks.

Bank Negara Malaysia slashed its key rate by 25 basis points to 1.75 percent, its fourth straight reduction, and warned that the economy had contracted sharply in the second quarter because of the strict lockdown.

Most businesses were closed and people were confined to their homes in mid-March as the outbreak accelerated, although authorities have been easing curbs since early May and life is gradually returning to normal.

The country’s outbreak has been small — it has recorded about 8,600 cases and 121 deaths — but the lockdown is nevertheless believed to have cost the economy billions of dollars.

The bank said in a statement that business activity was recovering and that government stimulus packages “will continue to underpin the improving economic outlook”.

It added that “the pace and strength of the recovery, however, remain subject to downside risks”, including future outbreaks and a weaker-than-expected rebound in global growth.

Southeast Asia’s third-biggest economy is highly dependent on trade, and its key exports include palm oil, crude oil and natural gas.

OCBC Bank economist Wellian Wiranto said “the bar for another cut later this year has gotten lower”, with the prospect of new virus outbreaks knocking the global economic recovery off course.

He added that “1.75 percent may not be a historic low for long… especially if global conditions suffer a relapse”.

AFP

Malaysia Probes Al Jazeera Documentary About Migrant Arrests

 

 

Malaysian police said Tuesday they are investigating an Al Jazeera documentary about the arrests of undocumented migrants during the coronavirus lockdown after officials denounced it for damaging the country’s image.

The move comes after several activists, journalists and opposition figures have been put under investigation recently in what critics say is a bid to silence dissent.

The documentary by the Qatar-based broadcaster, “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”, focused on the detention of hundreds of migrants found without valid documents in areas under strict lockdowns.

Authorities defended the May arrests as necessary to protect public health, but rights groups warned that putting the foreigners in detention centres could increase the risk of infection.

National police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said an investigation had been launched after complaints were lodged about the 25-minute documentary.

Officials would examine whether the report “contains elements of sedition, or any other offences, under the laws of the country”, he told a press conference.

“We will be calling them soon for questioning… We will decide on the charges after we question them.”

Al Jazeera, which broadcast the documentary last week, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The programme sparked a backlash online, and ministers have lined up to criticise it — with Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Monday demanding an apology from Al Jazeera.

He said the broadcaster had “reported incorrect things, accusing us of being racist”.

Concerns about worsening freedom of expression have been growing in Malaysia since the collapse of a reformist government in February and the return of a scandal-plagued party to power.

One of the country’s leading independent news portals, Malaysiakini, faces contempt of court proceedings next week over reader comments on its site that were critical of the judiciary.

Malaysia is home to large numbers of migrants from poorer countries — including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar — who work in industries ranging from manufacturing to agriculture.

 

 

 

-AFP

Malaysia To Ban Citizens From Travel Abroad, Foreign Arrivals – PM

This handout from Malaysia’s Department of Information taken and released on March 1, 2020 shows Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing documents after taking the oath as the country’s new leader at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. FAMER ROHENI / Malaysia’s Department of Information / AFP.

 

Malaysia will ban its citizens from travelling overseas and foreigners from entering the country in drastic measures announced by the prime minister Monday aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

Schools will also be closed under the rules that will be in place for two weeks from Wednesday, Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Large gatherings will be banned while shops and places of worship will be shuttered in the country, which has 566 virus cases according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the highest number in Southeast Asia.

Essential services such as supermarkets and banks will remain open.

“I am aware that you may feel that this action taken by the government will create difficulties in running your daily lives,” Muhyiddin said in a late-night television address.

“However, this action must be taken by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak which is likely to take the lives of people in this country.”

Malaysia has so far recorded no fatalities from the virus.

READ ALSO: Global Airlines Slash Almost All Flights As Coronavirus Spreads

Many of the country’s infections have been linked to a global Islamic event held last month and attended by almost 20,000 people.

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Around 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.

The new measures bar foreigners from the country, but citizens returning to Malaysia will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We can’t wait any longer until things get worse,” said Muhyiddin, who was sworn in only on March 1 after taking power without an election, and with support from a scandal-tainted party.

“We have seen some countries take drastic steps to control the spread of the outbreak like China, which has seen a significant decline in COVID-19 infection cases.”

AFP