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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Social media users have mounted attacks onto the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Facebook page today, over what they term as an unfair penalty for a Cabinet minister.
Just moments earlier, MOH issued a statement announcing that plantation industries and commodities minister Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali had been slapped with a RM1,000 compound for failing to be in home quarantine for 14 days, as per the ministry’s standard operating procedure.
This came after days of public pressure, following revelations by Khairuddin’s predecessor, DAP MP Teresa Kok, that the minister failed to observe his 14-day quarantine.
MOH’s statement, however, did not appease social media users who were quick to point out the seeming biases in the way the authorities penalised everyday people for breaking the Covid-19 SOPs, as opposed to lawmakers and the elites.
“I’m sorry, I have lost all trust on MOH, all the procedures issued, to me, are mere cover page decorations, regards,” a Facebook user, Muhammad Anis Daud wrote.
Athenz Yu meanwhile called on Malaysians to simply ignore the self-quarantine rule which the social media user noted only caused a RM1,000 fine, compared to the RM2,100 for a two-week hotel stay.
“Come people of Malaysia. Rather than you undergoing quarantine with a cost of RM2,100, it is better to break the quarantine, as it is only a fine of RM1,000. If you are told to pay more than that, please use this case as a reference in court,” the comment read.
“MOH, this hardly seems fair by anyone’s standards, especially the ideals set by MOH for the rest of us,” another user Vanitha Rangganathan wrote.
Wan Taimong, meanwhile, compared the penalty received by Khairuddin to the one faced by an elderly woman in Perak, who was fined RM8,000 and jailed for one day.
“RM1,000 only? That aunty was fined RM8,000, one day in jail wooo,” the comment read.
Another user, Pozi posted: “If he is fined RM2,000, he would lose his eligibility as a parliamentarian. MOH had to follow since this is kluster kayangan... shame on you.”
‘Kluster kayangan’ is a troll term used to tease the elites, who violate the government’s Covid-19 SOPs.
Criticisms over the seemingly biased penalty have gripped social media for several months now, since the beginning of the movement control order (MCO).
This was after the daughter of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and her husband were fined only RM800 for flouting the MCO, when a single mother was fined RM1,000 and jailed for eight days for a similar offence.
The wildly differing sentences meted out to ordinary Malaysians and politicians for violating the MCO already drew public interest even before this particular case.
A university student was fined RM200 more than the Umno president’s daughter and son-in-law, when he pleaded guilty to violating the same regulation by going to a friend’s house to work on an assignment.
The same magistrate’s court in Selayang also fined two unemployed men RM1,000 each for leaving their homes to buy food at 9pm on April 9, beyond the 8pm curfew.
When Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak executive councillor Razman Zakaria were only fined RM1,000 for breaching the MCO, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob merely said they were engaged in essential services.
The minister said the duo only violated Health Ministry’s guidelines and did not travel without authorisation.
Recently, when a tearful teenager was slapped with a RM1,000 fine at a train station on live television for purportedly pulling down his face mask to relieve an itch, social media users quickly dug up photos of politicians seen going about without their face masks and gathering in groups without physical distancing.
In his own defence yesterday, Khairuddin said that he has been tested three times for Covid-19 since his controversial trip to Turkey last month — and the results have all come back negative.
The Star reported the Kuala Nerus MP claiming that the first two tests were carried out upon his return to Malaysia on July 7, and then 13 days later, returned negative.
He took the third test recently, ahead of an event at Istana Negara on August 17.
The PAS MP was quoted as saying that the fact he was allowed into Istana Negara proved that he had tested negative for Covid-19, adding that he would have been denied entry otherwise.
On Tuesday, Kok pointed out that the minister had visited Turkey between July 3 and 7, but was already back in Parliament on July 13.
The following day, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the minister should have been quarantined as it was compulsory to do so and that an investigation will be conducted to find out why this did not happen.
Under the National Security Council’s (NSC) SOP, all returnees are tested on arrival and those with negative results must then serve out their 14-day quarantine, while those who test positive are sent to a hospital for further treatment.
A breach of this order is punishable under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 by up to two years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both upon conviction.
A source close to the minister previously claimed Khairuddin went to Turkey with the prime minister’s approval and that the country had been in the “green zone” at the time.