Respect states’ rights, senior minister told after warning of lawsuits for CMCO non-compliance

Yii said the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, which meant that it took precedence over the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 or Act 342 itself. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Yii said the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, which meant that it took precedence over the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 or Act 342 itself. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUCHING, May 5 — DAP’s Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen today criticised Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali for issuing threats to states that opted against the conditional movement control order (CMCO) announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin last Friday.

He said the federal government should respect the different powers conferred to the states under the Federal Constitution, especially those listed on Schedule 9 under the concept of federalism that Malaysia is practising.

“Technically, based on the Item 7 of the Concurrent List of the Schedule, it clearly says that both the federal and states have the concurrent powers on public health and prevention of disease,” Yii said when commenting on Azmin’s statement yesterday.

He added the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, which meant that it took precedence over the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 or Act 342 itself.

“In Sarawak, we have the Local Authorities Ordinance 1996, and the Businesses, Professions and Trades Licensing Ordinance [ Cap. 33 ] that deal with matters of public health in public areas and with business licensing and setting of regulations for running of the business,” he said.

He added Sarawak also has the Protection of Public Health Ordinance 1998 which gives certain authority to the state to deal with matters of public health in a local context

“Although I acknowledge the presence of Article 81 of the Federal Constitution which gives the condition where state governments can exercise executive authority as long it is consistent with any federal law applying to any state, but I believe this dispute can be settled in a more constructive manner.

“I do hope the Sarawak government can respond to the federal government as soon as possible to give some clarity as this has caused a lot of confusion on the ground, especially among the people,” Yii said.

He stressed people just want clarity and certainty and proper and detailed steps on the long-term "exit plan" to adapt to this "new normal" in post-Covid-19 era.

“This has to be properly communicated and adequate time should also be given for proper adaptation and efficient enforcement rather than having a flip-flop policy that only causes more confusion.

“If this gets out of control, this may not only trigger a constitutional crisis that may threaten the effectiveness of our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and but also even scares away investors and affect the long-term economic future of our country,” he said.

Azmin, who is also the minister of international trade and industry, said yesterday that every state in Malaysia should cooperate by carrying out the standard operating procedures for the reopening of businesses and industries under the more relaxed CMCO.

 “Should the state governments refuse to co-operate in implementing Act 342 which has been gazetted into law enforceable throughout the country, the state governments may face the possibility of legal action from various parties, particularly the industry players,” he said, referring to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 which is the main law used to enforce and layout regulations for the MCO in the country.

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