Ismail Sabri: No double standard on social distancing orders

The deputy minister and the council member are guilty of not observing social distancing rules, not MCO laws, says senior minister


THE government denied practising double standards in punishing Movement Control Order (MCO) misconducts and insisted that penalties are given based on individual offences.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the actions taken against Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak executive council member Razman Zakaria on Tuesday were consistent with the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).

“The punishments are different because the charges are different. The deputy minister and the council member were guilty of not observing social distancing rules, not MCO laws.

“As representatives, they are allowed to move and conduct their duties, but their fault was not observing social distancing rules and so actions had to be taken,” Ismail Sabri said at his daily briefing yesterday.

“Under Act 342, the maximum punishment for this offence is a fine of RM1,000. Others who have been imprisoned are charged mostly for offences that fall under the Penal Code including forcibly resisting arrests and ramming into roadblocks. It is not double standard,” he added.

The duo’s verdict has caused an uproar on social media where the government is accused of double standards between politicians and ordinary citizens.

Several other lawmakers were also said to have been spotted flouting social distancing rules with no actions taken.

In contrast, 21,749 individuals were arrested as of April 28 for violating the MCO, including students, a single mother and senior citizens, many of whom are in vulnerable positions.

Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri said thousands of students have safely returned to their homes since the nationwide operation began on April 27.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from five higher learning institutions in the northern zone, including Universiti Teknologi MARA, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and polytechnics, travelled back.

Another 653 students from the same zone will follow suit in a movement which requires 44 buses to and from Perlis, Kedah and Pulau Pinang. In Sarawak, 280 students will return to their homes within the state today. Ismail Sabri said special flights will be chartered to send students in the peninsula back to Sabah or Sarawak, and vice versa.

Based on a set of guidelines released by the Higher Education Ministry (MoHE) on Sunday, students who are travelling by bus will be placed in disinfected buses arranged by the government and will be accompanied by liaison officers equipped with a list of those travelling.

It said students will be dropped off at their respective district offices or police district headquarters where the relevant agencies will then send students back home.

Social distancing by designating two seats to a person will be enforced throughout the journey, with only emergency stops allowed.

Flexibility will be given to those living within five kilometres from their district drop-off points, with only one family member permitted to pick them up.

MoHE said students with their own cars will be permitted to travel back home only if their destinations are within the same state. Family members are not allowed to pick students from their campuses.

Students will not be allowed to drive their own cars across state borders and are advised to instead opt for transport arranged by their institutions if they wish to return to their hometowns.