Strong backlash from all quarters over increase in fines for SOP breaches to RM10k

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A burden for the ordinary man to pay RM10,000 fine.

Several MPs from the government and the opposition have raised their concerns over the government’s decision to increase to RM10,000 the fine imposed on individuals who violate Covid-19 health SOPS.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak is worried that the government’s decision to increase to RM10,000 the fine imposed on individuals who violate Covid-19 health SOPS will anger the people.

He suggested the fine be increased progressively, saying the SOPs introduced by the government were also inconsistent.

Najib said that he actually supported that heavier punishments be imposed on those who violate the SOPs depending on the severity of the movement control order (MCO).

“I support a heavier punishment for those who violate the Covid-19 MCO SOPs but not all SOPs are equally serious and should not be treated the same.

FMT

“For less serious offences which involve people who may be committing them due to mistakes, the punishment needs to be for the purpose of educating them and should be raised progressively, not to bankrupt the people,” he said.

Yesterday, it was announced that beginning March 11, people who violate movement control order (MCO) restrictions can expect stiffer penalties under emergency amendments to the legislation meant to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) have been gazetted pursuant to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s emergency powers under Article 150(3) of the Federal Constitution.

Among others, the compound for offences under the act was raised from RM1,000 to RM10,000 for individuals and RM50,000 for companies.

After the amendments, if a case is brought to court, an offender is liable to a fine of up to RM100,000, imprisonment of up to seven years or both, unless a different penalty is specifically prescribed for the said offence.

Under the law that is currently in force, a compound may not exceed RM1,000.

The ordinance also states that companies or corporations that commit offences related to health SOPs can be fined up to RM50,000.

The Pekan MP suggested for first-time offenders to only receive a fine of RM1,000, saying this could be increased if they insisted on repeating the mistake.

“This method of ‘progressive punishments’ is adopted by several countries and accepted by the people, because no one will sympathise with stubborn offenders who repeatedly violate the SOPs.

“But if they are fined RM10,000 straight away, many will not be satisfied,” he said.

Najib also warned that the public’s anger could increase if the practice of “double standards” continued, where politicians may be given lighter punishments compared with “normal people”.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng pointed out that stiffer penalties would not help to lower the number of Covid-19 infections but further burden the ordinary people.

“While ministers can afford the RM10,000 compound fine, the ordinary rakyat cannot afford to pay even the penalty of RM1,000 compound fine, much less RM10,000.

Sayuti Zainudin

“Have the ordinary rakyat not suffered enough from the economic recession, business closures and job losses and must now pay such stiff compound fines of RM10,000?”

Based on previous SOP flouting allegations and cases against ministers, Lim said it was unlikely that ministers would ever be penalised as severely as the people for violating SOP.

He cited examples of Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Azmin Ali and Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa who were accused of flouting SOPs.

Johor Bahru MP Akmal Nasir questioned how far justice will be applied when it comes to enforcement when probing two groups of people, namely ministers and the public.

“The people have repeatedly vented their frustrations openly and told the government to stop using a double-standard approach in SOP before making any amendments.

FMT

“The revelations about ministers and PN lawmakers flouting the SOP were not entertained, but actions against ordinary people were taken immediately,” he said.

Consumer activists and an economist meanwhile said the move by was regressive and punitive.

They also claimed it will only encourage more corruption as offenders may try to buy their way out.

Jacob George, president of the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, said it was a move backwards for the country as the idea of fines is to educate the people, and should not be punitive or malicious in nature.

“We have seen two sets of laws, with ministers and politicians getting away. Those who will be facing the fines are not politically powerful.

“People like Ahmad, Ah Seng and Arumugam facing the crunch because of the poor economy will be fined,” he said, adding that those unable to pay the fines are likely to end up in prison.

Marimuthu Nadason, president of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca), said this is not the right time to raise fines as people are suffering from job loss and pay cuts.

He also said the compliance rate for standard operating procedures (SOPs) has been high.

“The government of the day should show love and educate the rakyat. Are they trying to make people bankrupt?” he asked.

He urged the government to show greater compassion and help people get on with their lives amid the pandemic.

“We are not in a life-and-death situation to implement such repressive laws. Why are we doing this? How can this be justified?” he asked.

Centre for Market Education chief executive Carmelo Ferlito said when fines are increased disproportionately, they will become troublesome for the lower-income group.

“This seems to be a regressive fine, punishing the poor,” he said.

He said it may also encourage giving and taking of bribes as people will try to evade getting fined.

 

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