The Malaysia government is looking into imposing harsher penalties against individuals or companies that breach COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) by using special powers during the state of emergency.
The penalties include higher fines than the current RM1,000, and longer jail terms.
Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a press conference on Thursday (21 January) that the maximum compound of RM1,000 under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) was considered too low for big companies.
“Many are upset when a company was issued a compound of only RM1,000 after its factory breached SOPs, which resulted in many of its workers testing positive for COVID-19 and the factory being shut down temporarily,” he said.
He highlighted that during the state of emergency, the law can be amended to increase penalties against such violations.
Ismail Sabri added that the government will have the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to look into this matter and will have the relevant amendments enforced immediately if approved.
He hoped that the public will comply with SOPs without having to wait for action from the authorities.
Netizens reacted negatively to the news, saying that harsher penalties should not only be imposed on working people, but also for politicians and VVIPs as well.
Many accused the authorities of being “selective” in enforcing penalties against the people when politicians and other VVIPs’ reported violations of SOPs are often treated more leniently.
One commenter stressed that “the concern was not about how severe the fines are”, but “the disgusting selective enforcement and double standards”.
The issue of ministers breaching COVID-19 SOPs is not unfamiliar among netizens.
One of the most significant example is when the police announced that no further action will be taken against Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali over his breach of the quarantine order after returning from his overseas trip in July.
Netizens added — regarding Ismail Sabri’s announcement yesterday — that amending the law to increase penalties will only add more burdens to most people, who are already struggling during this pandemic.
Some blamed the government for not having enough funds, which resorted to them “squeezing the people dry”.
The people will still be on the losing end if harsher punishment was enforced, and such is why the government should show more compassion for the people in such difficult times, said one netizen.