Asian countries pledge ‘regional solidarity’ with China over coronavirus outbreak

ember states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declared their “solidarity” with China and in working to reduce the economic and social impact of the pandemic on the region. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 February 2020

Asian countries pledge ‘regional solidarity’ with China over coronavirus outbreak

  • China in emergency summit plea for more people-to-people cooperation to contain pandemic

KUALA LUMPUR: An intergovernmental group of Asian countries on Thursday pledged support to China in its fight against the killer coronavirus outbreak.

Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declared their “solidarity” in working to reduce the economic and social impact of the pandemic on the region.

“ASEAN expressed its confidence that China would be able to handle the outbreak, however, each ASEAN country offers their help to China to address the crisis together,” said the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), being held in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, he added: “There are impacts, especially economic impacts. We will work together to overcome this.”

The minister pointed out that the association had pinpointed a need to strengthen information exchange between ASEAN and China. He said that it was still unclear how the virus was being spread, which was “all the more reason for us to exchange notes.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged nations to strengthen people-to-people cooperation in the region, as ASEAN ministers and Chinese officials held hands while chanting, “stay strong, Wuhan. Stay strong, China. Stay strong, ASEAN.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that more than 77,000 people have contracted the virus worldwide, the majority of them in China.

Dr. Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, told Arab News on Thursday that the special China-ASEAN meeting sent a strong message to the world that the region was taking the virus outbreak “very seriously. These countries are seeking a more collaborative approach in handling the matter. Hopefully, it could at least improve the mechanism of sharing timely information and best practices in countering the outbreak.”

Thomas Daniel, senior analyst at the Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said the main outcome of the meeting was “regional solidarity” and cultivating a sense of confidence-building in the wider region.

“It is more about the images and messaging than it is about concrete actions putting forward,” he added.

Daniel noted that China had been very appreciative of the support shown by ASEAN for the ongoing health crisis and said: “The emergency meeting definitely could have been done earlier. In cases like this, most of the time reactions are ‘nation first.’ It takes time for a multilateral approach to take place.”

However, ASEAN member states have so far been uncoordinated in implementing preventive measures to stop the virus’ spread.

While Malaysia won praise from the WHO and Singapore was lauded by Harvard University experts on Tuesday, Cambodia on Feb. 14 allowed hundreds of passengers on the Westerdam cruise ship to disembark in the port of Sihanoukville. Days later, coronavirus infections were reported among those who were allowed to go ashore.


Malaysia’s king rejects PM Muhyiddin’s request for emergency rule

Updated 25 October 2020

Malaysia’s king rejects PM Muhyiddin’s request for emergency rule

  • Critics say Muhyiddin Yassin’s request for emergency rule is an attempt by the premier to stay in power amid a leadership challenge

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected on Sunday a proposal by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for him to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis, saying that he did not see the need.
Critics say Muhyiddin’s request for emergency rule, which would include suspending parliament, is an attempt by the premier to stay in power amid a leadership challenge.
Malaysia is seeing a resurgence in virus infections and on Saturday reported its biggest daily jump in cases with 1,228 new cases.
The palace said Muhyiddin made the request for emergency rule to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but that the government has been handling the crisis well.
“Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the opinion that there is no need at the moment for His Majesty to declare an emergency in the country or in any part of the country of Malaysia,” the palace said in a statement.
“His Majesty is confident in the ability of the government under the leadership of the Prime Minister to continue to implement policies and enforcement efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The king’s decision came after a meeting with other senior royals in the country.
The constitution gives the king the right to decide if an emergency should be declared, based on threats to security, economy or public order.
Muhyiddin has been in a precarious position since he took office in March with a two-seat majority. Uncertainties deepened after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said last month he had the parliamentary majority to form a new government.