Lower penalties, discounts for SOP offences

New compound rate of RM1,500 will be imposed on 1st-time offenders

by AZREEN HANI & AFIQ AZIZ / pic by BERNAMA

THE government offers a 50% discount to individuals who are fined for violating the Movement Control Order (MCO) standard operating procedures (SOPs), provided that the payment is made within seven days, said law minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan.

A 25% discount will be given for settlement within two weeks, he said in a press conference yesterday.

Takiyuddin announced that individuals who do not wear masks, those who fail to register or use the MySejahtera app to check in and those who do not adhere to physical distancing will be subjected to a fine of not more than RM10,000. However, a new compound rate — RM1,500 — will be imposed on first-time offenders.

No discount will be given after a two weeks’ period.

The government said a RM10,000 fine will be issued under the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 (Act 342).

However, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said since the implementation of RM10,000 compound on March 11, no one has come forward to make the payment.

Still, Takiyuddin said the RM10,000 penalty will be applicable for nightclubs/pubs/entertainment activities and business owners will still face the maximum RM50,000 fine.

Meanwhile, health experts told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that no evidence or data shows that imposing hefty penalties and punishment will improve the public’s compliance with the SOPs.

Such punitive measures, they said, will only marginalise the poor.

Senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS said in ensuring good SOP compliance, it is critical for the society leaders, including the government and the health sector to “lead by example”.

“Additionally, what makes SOP compliance good is that you have SOPs that are based on science rather than opinion,” he told TMR.

“I understand the government is trying to keep our pandemic rate down, but I believe many countries have not resulted in this,” he said.

Among the nations that have good SOPs under their regulations are New Zealand and Taiwan, Dr Amar added.

“Their leadership is strong, if you refer to New Zealand’s prime minister and the leaders in Taiwan, they were first to follow the SOPs, unlike in the US where you can see the SOPs are a mess because of lack of leadership,” he added.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said it is flawed to assume that using threats and imposing heavy penalties have a direct correlation with the number of Covid-19 cases, as there is no study or evidence to demonstrate this.

He stressed the punitive measure is no shortcut to getting rapid results of bringing down Covid-19 cases.

This is backed by the fact that Malaysia has been recognised as having a high level of compliance with Covid-19 restrictions in this region, despite there being no high penalties before, Azrul said.

“Regardless of whatever restrictions that are imposed or threats of penalties being bandied about by the government, people are less likely to adhere to SOPs that have been outlined when they are among family members, friends and even office colleagues.

“As such, it is pointless to impose additional penalties as success depends on individuals, families and communities understanding and cooperating,” Azrul added.

According to Azrul, the government collected RM6 million within the first four months of the first MCO enforced in March 2020, which Azrul said is not something that “can be proud of”.

“It should be channelled into initiatives which address health literacy and community assistance programmes.

“This crisis has caused hardships on many individuals, households and communities. This revenue should be given back to those most vulnerable and in need,” he added.

Meanwhile, occupational health specialist Dr Shawaludin Husin said higher penalties should result in higher compliance with SOPs, particularly for those who deliberately violate the procedures.

“In such cases when people simply cross the state during the MCO period, this kind of punishment would be needed,” he said.


Read our previous report here

50% discount for early compound settlement