KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — The Health Ministry’s surprise move to ban physical gatherings in enclosed spaces ahead of next month’s Melaka election was raised in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Kota Raja MP Mohamad Sabu, better known as Mat Sabu, questioned the prohibition made under Act 342, effective today until November 27, calling it strange when most places and ceremonies are now allowed nationwide.

"Melaka is under Phase Four of the National Recovery Plan. Restaurants are packed, malls are full, there are wedding ceremonies and classes are allowed to resume.

"Malaysia has become one of the strangest countries in the world where the law can be changed according to the whims and fancies of those in power," the Opposition lawmaker said.

The Amanah president had cut in while Pakatan Harapan MP from PKR, Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, was debating the motion to annul the Emergency Ordinances.

However, Tebrau MP Steven Choong welcomed the Health Ministry directive and described those who think otherwise as “selfish”.

The independent lawmaker, who was formerly with PKR, said the prohibition showed the government had learnt its lesson after the surge in Covid-19 cases that followed last year’s Sabah election.

“We in politics should always place the health of the rakyat as our main agenda.

“Unfortunately, [politicians] for their own benefit have triggered the Malacca state election at a time when it is not so appropriate for the normal rakyat out there,” Choong said during his turn to debate.

Choong was one of the three PKR MPs — the other two being Kuala Langat MP Datuk Dr Xavier Jeyakumar and Julau PM Larry Sng — who declared themselves independents supportive of the ruling Perikatan Nasional last year.

Yesterday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin invoked the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, also known as Act 342, to ban all political gatherings in Melaka starting November 25-27 over Covid-19 concerns.

Khairy noted that some politicians, including those from his party Umno, had been holding gatherings in Melaka and failing to follow the SOPs even as daily Covid-19 cases in the country remained in the four digits.

While Khairy did not name anyone, former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is also Pekan MP, was captured on video openly mingling with crowds of people in an enclosed hall and an open air restaurant in Melaka yesterday. The videos were widely shared on social media.

Politicians from both sides of the divide have objected to the ban. Among them is Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan, who asked the government to reconsider the prohibition.

Nomination day for the Melaka election will be on November 8, with polling day set for November 20.