KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador today allayed the fears of Malaysians by clarifying that the hike in standard operating procedure (SOP) compound rates does not mean that first-time offenders would be forced to fork out the maximum RM10,000 penalty.

Abdul Hamid stressed that the increase, which came into effect at midnight under the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, allows officers with authority to enforce higher fines of up to RM10,000 on repeat and stubborn offenders, while acting as a deterrent to others.

The country’s top cop, during a press conference at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman today, elaborated on the process one would go through upon being issued a fine during the current period of Emergency, stressing that police officers do not decide or collect the penalty imposed.

“One has to remember that the police have not been given the power to decide how much the fine should be or to collect it,” he said.

He explained that all fines related to SOP breaches issued will show an amount of RM10,000 on the summons, but advised the public not to panic as this is part of the police’s duty to note the maximum compound offered for such offences. 

“Ultimately, the person issued with the fine will then have two weeks to settle it, where the final amount will be decided by the district health officer at their respective district health offices.

“So it is not a case of you automatically being required to pay RM10,000 once you receive the fine. These amounts are ultimately at the district health officer’s discretion.

“The police are not out to punish anyone, or issue fines and collect money on behalf of the government. We are just the messengers who enforce the law and issue the fine,” he explained.

Abdul Hamid said this leaves the final amount imposed on any person in the hands of a select few authorised personnel, one of whom is the district health. 

“So you can present your case to the health officers when settling the fine and they can decide the appropriate amount. It could be RM5,000, RM3,000, RM1,000, or they could even decide to impose a fine of RM50 based on their evaluation, or even dismiss the fine completely.

“Also, these officers are not deciding the fine amounts at their whims and fancy. They too have a set of guidelines to follow,” he said

Under the amended Emergency Ordinance 2021, a person found breaching movement control order SOPs is subject to a fine compoundable up to a sum of RM10,000, effective today, a tenfold increase from the previous maximum compound value of RM1,000.

Abdul Hamid then explained that those most likely to receive the maximum RM10,000 fine would be repeat offenders, interstate travellers who end up causing Covid-19 clusters, or owners of entertainment outlets operating for business despite a ban.

“Even then, it is up to the district health officer to decide the appropriate fine for these repeat and blatant offenders,” he added.

He also revealed that an offender registry will be set up by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to allow district health officers to identify and distinguish between repeat and first-time offenders.

Abdul Hamid said once a person has been fined by the health officer, he is considered an offender whose details would then be added to the registry.

He also pointed out that anyone unhappy with the fine imposed by health officers can present their case to a magistrate.

“If they consider the amount imposed on them by the health officers unfair, they can try and appeal one more time in court in front of a magistrate,” he said.

On why an amount of RM10,000 was agreed upon by the government when making the amendments, Abdul Hamid explained the government decided that figure would act as a lesson to offenders, while sending the message that the war on Covid-19 is far from over.

“Many were caught surprised when the fine was increased to RM10,000, but what people have to remember are the intentions behind it, which is to serve as a reminder that we have not won the war against Covid-19 yet.

“MOH data suggests that the situation can go from bad to worse in just a matter of days, like what we saw during the third wave, so (the higher fine) is to act as a warning to those looking to break any laws.

“I appeal to the people not to panic over the RM10,000 fine; it is not hard to comply with the law so I urge everyone to just resist temptations, such as trying to return to your hometown on the weekend, and follow the SOPs,” he added.