M’sia seeks public opinion in drafting COVID-19 temporary measures Bill

Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA — Malaysia is seeking to introduce a COVID-19 Temporary Measures Bill as a means to alleviate the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in a tweet this week called upon members of the public to participate in the process of forming the draft by leaving proposals suggestions on the COVID-19 Draft Bill page.

According to the statement on the Unified Public Consultation website, the public forum is coordinated by the Legal Affairs Division of Prime Minister’s Department.

“This Bill will include provisions that modify existing laws for a prescribed period that impede the collective effort to revive the economy and to assist those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read.

The consultation period, which began on Tuesday (2 June), is due by today (5 June).

Source: Unified Public Consultation, Legal Affairs Division of Malaysia’s Prime Minister’s Department
Source: Unified Public Consultation, Legal Affairs Division of Malaysia’s Prime Minister’s Department

The Malaysian government listed businesses as among the affected stakeholders in the drafting process of the temporary measures Bill, alongside workers, other members of the public and ministries.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Takiyuddin Hassan earlier said on 30 May that proposals and suggestions submitted through the page “should be on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and have an impact on businesses and firms, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the people as a whole”.

Previously in April, a coalition of Malaysian business associations urged the government to enact a COVID-19 Act — following Singapore and the United Kingdom’s move to do so — as a stopgap measure to prevent legal disputes regarding contractual obligations after the end of the movement control order (MCO) period.

Over 40 per cent of businesses in retail and services will not be able to weather the detrimental losses brought on by COVID-19 to their operations, in addition to legal complications surrounding rent, workers’ pay and other obligations, said the coalition.

MRA president James Loke in a virtual press conference on 29 April said that the temporary measures law “should detail out clauses for rental, other expenses and allow for sharing of financial burden between owners and tenants of shopping malls, shop lots, offices and factories, as well as (have details on) reductions in rental”.

“You cannot expect every landlord to be kind enough to understand (a tenant’s) predicament and give a waiver or extension period to pay up,” he added.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Garry Chua said that implementing a COVID-19 Bill or Act “similar to the Singapore COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act” is of “paramount importance” to “protect business owners from legal suits when they are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations or sustain their businesses post-MCO”.

Singapore’s COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act was swiftly passed in Parliament on 7 April. Provisions related to temporary relief for debtors’ contractual obligations came into effect on 20 April.

COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020, under section 34(1) of the Act, mandates the wearing of masks in general when outside, governs the restriction of movement and certain gatherings, and provides for safety measures in workplaces including work-from-home arrangements.

No public consultation or survey was made during the drafting of the Bill before it was passed.

Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong introduced the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Bill in Parliament today (5 June). The Bill was presented with a Certificate of Urgency.

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