A year of unacceptable confusions

The pandemic battle should not take our compassion away, when we need it even more in this trying time


TOMORROW marks a year of Malaysia being put under the Movement Control Order (MCO). Ironically, you would have thought that having been through so many rounds of MCO, we would have gotten it right.

Evidently, as the last few days had shown us, not only the public were confused and frustrated with the regulations, it appeared that even the police and health authorities also acknowledged that there were no clear directions on the standard operating procedures (SOPs), especially over the issue of the RM10,000 fine.

When the government announced the hefty amount of the compound, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said it was meant for repeat offenders.

Yet, since March 11, we keep getting reports of people issued maximum fines for various minute reasons — failure to wear masks properly and not scanning MySejahtera, among others.

It is tiresome to see the blame game between the authorities over the issuance of the fine.

Worse is when even state health departments also said, as per news reports from Sin Chew Daily, they have no authority to manage the appeals or reduce the fine.

I am not dismissing the notion that after a year, these practices (wearing face masks, scanning our details, physical distancing) should have been incorporated in our daily new normal.

That does not negate the fact that the offences and the quantum of the fine do not even make sense to begin with.

Some have tried to justify (and somewhat backfired badly) that the amount is still cheaper than other countries. Various political parties, be it from Umno or DAP, have offered free legal consultation to those who have been slapped with the compound.

Others, such as Parti Warisan Sabah, have called for the government to rescind the compound, until clear policy is formulated.

After four days, Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan finally said the government will spell out offences that are subject to the RM10,000 fine.

Still, it is not lost on the people that other countries have a higher minimum wage than Malaysia.

In fact, as a social media user pointed out, some Malaysians have never seen RM10,000 in their lives, just earning enough to get by from day to day.

We will never know the thought process of this decision — was it backed by science and data? Will it be effective in promoting SOP compliance?

But we know that the frustration among the people — especially upon seeing various excuses by individuals in powerful positions to escape punishment — is real.

A caring and “Prihatin” government would have been more empathetic from the start. Yes, we are aware of the need to be more vigilant, but surely, some cases need more tact than the others.

Life is already hard for the less fortunate, do not make it harder with arbitrary law. The pandemic battle should not take our compassion away, when we need it even more in this trying time.

  • Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.