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LETTER | RM10k fine - the devil is in the details

LETTER | Much has been said and discussed of the RM10,000 fine on those caught for violating the movement control order rules.

It is true laws in general must prescribe the right punishment to be effective. However, the effectiveness of any law is also dependent on professional enforcement and also whether or not our enforcers are corrupt.

A ten thousand ringgit fine for an MCO violation is heavy by any standard including those from the middle class. It is true some violators are stubborn and therefore deserved to be slapped with a heavier punishment. 

However, given the current economic situation, I think most are already very hard pressed. A five thousand ringgit fine is more than adequate to provide the lesson given the present circumstances.

When violators are issued a compound with a RM10,000 penalty, the onus is on them to get it reduced. It is true the government does allow appeals but do most people know the process or the procedures involved to get it reduced?

We were told the district health officers are given the authority to entertain the appeals. But do we know who they are and where their offices are? If district health officers are busy people, how long do we have to wait to see them?

More than that, do we ever know how the appeal decisions are based on - specific pre-set criteria or the circumstances as narrated by those appealing or is it at the sole discretion of the authorities?

Sometimes I wonder why we are making laws that allow so much ambiguity and discretion. Don’t you think this itself would lead to more corruption?

When the law prescribes a disproportionate penalty, enforcers may be emboldened to go after violators indiscriminately perhaps just to solicit bribes.

Talk is easy for those in position and authority – i.e. "Those slapped with a compound should just appeal and get the amount of fine reduced."  Have they personally gone through the process?

If the intention is to reduce violations, why then did we set the fine so high in the first place? It is dangerous to give too much discretionary powers to public officials and enforcers. 

When ministers and senior officials make public statements urging the people to appeal against the heavy fine, all seems easy and clear. The devil is in the details.  

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

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