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MP SPEAKS | ‘Fake news’ law: IGP, defence minister should be charged first

MP SPEAKS | The Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador and Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob should be the first persons to be arrested and charged under Emergency (Essential Powers) (No.2) Ordinance 2021 which came into effect yesterday for spreading fake news concerning Covid-19 and the emergency.

It should be applied immediately to them because they are holding top posts in the government and they are at the forefront dealing with Covid-19 and the enforcement of the emergency ordinance. 

Their pieces of fake news have widespread influence and have been acted upon by the police officers and persons authorised by them.

Fake news No 1:

Prior to the amendment of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) by the emergency ordinance, Hamid and Ismail have spread fake news by announcing and/or giving the impression that the police can arrest and/or issue an offer to compound (summons) for breaches under Act 342 and/or the regulations made thereunder, for example, the movement control orders and the standards operating procedures.

The police do not have such power to arrest because the offences were non-seizable offences. The police also do not have the power to issue the offer to compound under Act 342.

After Act 342 was amended, the health director-general and his authorised officers after receiving the written consent of the public prosecutor may issue a compound for offences under Act 342.

The police do not have such power base on the ejusdem generis (same kind) rule of interpretation as to who is authorised to issue a compound under Act 342. 

Even if we were to interpret that the police can be appointed as authorised officers, they have to get written consent from the public prosecutor before they can issue an offer to the compound which I believe they did not do when they issued the compound of RM10,000 to all the alleged offenders yesterday.

Fake news No 2:

On Feb 27, the IGP said the compound of RM10,000, effective from March 11 will only be imposed on individuals who breached the MCO repeatedly as well as those who can trigger the spread of Covid-19. This is clearly fake news as there is no legal provision to support what he said.

On March 11, the IGP confirmed what he said on Feb 27 was untrue when he said the compound issued by the police has to be RM10,000 in all cases. Those unhappy can appeal to the district health offices for the reduction of the compound.

If the power to determine the final fine to be imposed rests with the health offices, clearly the power to compound rests with the Health Ministry. Amended Act 342 clearly provides that the power to issue an offer to compound rests with the health director-general or his authorised officers after written consent has been obtained from the public prosecutor. 

The IGP indirectly confirms that the police have no power to issue the offer to compound, confirming his Fake News No 1.

I do not support that the IGP and the defence minister be arrested and charged under the new ordinance but it has become our law since yesterday. Since it is the law of the land, it has to be executed. Since the IGP and the defence minister have not retracted their pieces of fake news, they have committed fake news offences under the emergency ordinance.

If they are not arrested and charged, the Perikatan Nasional government is clearly practising double standards. It also confirms that the PN backdoor unelected government’s intention of introducing the law is to curtail freedom of speech, freedom of the media, and silence critics against the PN government.

I call on the new “fake law” ordinance to be withdrawn immediately.

The IGP and the defence minister should consult the Attorney-General’s Chambers immediately if they have erred in law with regard to the issues I have raised. If the attorney-general can point out that I have erred, I stand corrected. That is how a free and democratic country should function. 

We must not allow a backdoor unelected government to silence its opponents.


NGEH KOO HAM is Beruas MP.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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