Review, consult all stakeholders on Act 342 amendments

A comprehensive review must be conducted to make the amendments relevant, practical and realistic

by AZREEN HANI / pic by TMR FILE

RETAIL associations are urging the government to consult all stakeholders on the proposed amendments to Infectious Diseases Act 342.

“We are in unison that a comprehensive review must be conducted to make the amendments relevant, practical and realistic,” the groups said in a joint statement yesterday.

“We further express that with the changing Covid situation and with further understanding of this pandemic through data and science, we believe many of the proposed amendments are irrelevant and unnecessary and will hinder the nation’s economic recovery after the devastating impact on the lives and livelihood of every citizen without exception,” it added.

Among the signatories of the statement were Industries Unite, Building Management Association of Malaysia, Bumiputera Retailers Organisation Malaysia, Malaysia Retail Chain Association, Malaysia REIT Managers Association, and Real Estate and Housing Developers Association.

Last month, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar called for a postponement on the second and third reading of the amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease (Amendment) Bill 2021 (Act 342) to the next Parliament sitting.

“Taking into consideration the need to focus on the current flood crisis, I have decided to take on the decision made by the select committee and propose for the second and third reading of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease (Amendment) Bill 2021 to be postponed to the next Parliament sitting,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.

The amendments remain a contentious issue as industry players and a health expert said the fine towards individuals and business owners will further sow distrust among the people, in light of several punishments alleged to be implemented in a double standard manner.

The bill, tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday, proposes a maximum of RM1 million fines on companies and organisations, and up to RM10,000 on individuals who flout the standard operating procedures.

Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (picture) had said these amendments are needed now to prepare for the next possible Covid wave.

Meanwhile, the retail groups further said that after the withholding of the Bill for further review, no consultations have still yet been forthcoming.

“We, therefore, suggest that these amendments be thoroughly studied through consultations with all stakeholders under the Good Regulatory Practice Regulations and the requisite and due process of Regulatory Impact Assessment be conducted thoroughly,” the statement read.

“We, thus, propose that this Bill be withdrawn to conduct this requisite process.”

The groups stressed that in principle, any regulations must be based on equity and fairness and must be practical and unambiguous.

“The people must not be put in undue fear and face hefty penalties due to impractical impositions, subjective interpretations and beyond the authority and control to implement or impose by a private entity on the people, leading to the private entity being severely penalised,” it said.

They said that totally over-kill and draconian proposed penalties will not only put undue fear in the people, leading to dampened enthusiasm to go about their daily lives, injure the viability of business leading to failures and bankruptcies and economic disaster.

The groups also cautioned that hefty fines encourage abuse and corruption and will spur underground activities and protection rackets.

Prior to this, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said these proposed amendments will put the manufacturers at risk of a possible bias among enforcers.

“FMM wishes to remind the government that it must be recognised that the manufacturing sector is one of the main sectors allowed to operate throughout all the phases of the National Recovery Plan, given its significance to the economy and global supply chains.

Therefore, the manufacturing sector would also be one of the main sectors in terms of infection detected in workplaces, but actually originating from the prevalent asymptomatic sporadic cases in the community,” Soh added.