Pakatan Harapan’s first public ceramah in the state seat of Kota Iskandar last night ended with the Johor Bahru District Health Office slapping them with an RM3,000 fine.
The ceramah, headed by Amanah president Mohamad Sabu who stumped for his party’s Kota Iskandar candidate Dzukefly Ahmad, also featured Harapan’s candidate for Perling Liew Chin Tong and Muda candidate for Puteri Wangsa Amira Aisyah Abd Aziz.
Mohamad ended his ceramah promptly at 10pm, in accordance with the standard operating procedures (SOP) outlined by the Election Commission and the organisers began clearing out the area in Taman Mutiara Rini in the suburb of Johor Bahru.
However, health authorities who have been monitoring the two-hour event approached organisers after a brief press conference by Mohamad and the candidates.
They were seen in conversation with Dzulkefly. He was informed that three compounds of RM1,000 each would be issued for alleged violation of Covid-19 prevention SOPs during the event.
Malaysiakini understands that the compounds were for the speakers’ failure to wear a face mask while speaking; the organisers’ failure to set up a proper entrance with a MySejahtera code and exit lane; as well as the inadequate distance between chairs under the audience tent.
Dzulkelfly told the health officers that it was Harapan’s first public ceramah in Kota Iskandar and they would make improvements at the next planned session.
In response, the health officers said the organisers were given due notice and that they, the officers, had exercised discretion in carrying out their duties.
The exchange between Dzulkelfly and the authorities went on for about 15 minutes before an official notice was issued for the three compounds.
Also seen at the ceramah was Muda’s candidate for Bukit Permai Azrol Rahani, whose own event earlier last night in his constituency was purportedly stopped.
Azrol’s campaign manager and Muda central executive committee member Dr Mathen Nair claimed that the health authorities had moved to stop the ceramah despite they having secured a permit.
“The health officers wanted to stop the ceramah because we had it at the office compound, instead of inside the office building.
“When we argued that the building premises that we are renting are obviously inclusive of the compound itself, they then proceeded to inquire if we had a lease for the office, which we, of course, do have, but we do not see the relevance,” Mathen said.
“We adhered to all SOPs, gave notice to the authorities and obtained all necessary permits, but yet, repeatedly, we are persecuted when other political parties are able to have large-scale gatherings,” he said.
According to the Covid-19 prevention SOP, for the Johor polls, ceramah are only allowed at party offices and official operation rooms, with the participation limited to 100 people. – Malaysiakini