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LETTER | DAP's stand on infectious diseases act disappointing

LETTER | The Association for Community and Dialogue (ACID) is disappointed by the stand of the DAP that it will not support the amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) to enact heavier fines for flouting Covid-19 SOPs.

The reviewed bill, slated to be tabled in March, will keep the maximum fines for individuals to RM10,000 but halve the maximum compound for companies to RM500,000.

According to DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng “Individuals and companies have suffered enough and should not be burdened under the current economic recession with heavier fines subject to the discretion of the government,” Lim said in a statement today.

He also said Pakatan Harapan had decided not to support amending Act 342 previously, as the bill had “wide space for abuse of power, corruption and double standards”.

It puzzling that the secretary-general limits himself to economic costs for individuals and companies, without addressing the reality of the daily lives of Malaysians holistically.

While Lim has a valid point that the bill has a wide space for abuse of power, corruption and double standards, there is another side of abuses that are happening in the daily lives of the people that have been brushed aside or can be construed as ignorant.

Recently, a worker told me she was forced to turn up to work by an established company in Ipoh even though she was a close contact with her mother who was tested positive for Covid-19. 

There have been instances where there has been a lack of supervision and monitoring of crowds in certain business premises, endangering the health of all those who are nearby.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused much suffering among people who are from the low income group. Some of them who have contracted the virus while taking care of their bed-ridden parents or spouses since their homes are cramp unlike the rich who are able to quarantine themselves with the best facilities.

It is vital to study the bill with the reality of ordinary Malaysians on the ground, and discuss provisions that could deter abuse of power, corruption and double standards. 

While it is appropriate to bring down the fines, one also has to take into consideration whether the flouting Covid-19 SOPs is systemic or functional, where the degree of fine should be based.

The DAP that speaks of meritocracy and competence should not be over-protective of individuals and corporations that violate these standards. It should work instead with the government to come up with amendments that would protect the common good. Common good means a broader understanding of what it takes to mitigate the disease.

Rejecting the bill outright is not a solution.


RONALD BENJAMIN is ACID secretary.

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

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