KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Pakatan Harapan today remained firm in its decision to not support the improved amendments to Act 342 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Bill 2021 and called on Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to hold an in-depth discussion with members of the Opposition, on the matter.
In a statement today, PH’s chief secretary Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail lamented that despite additional amendments made today, by way of reducing fines and compounds, PH MPs are of the view that the Bill still opens up a wide space for power abuse, double standard and corruption.
“Given the stand of the Opposition leader that has been conveyed to the prime minister, and given that the government remains committed to continuing the debate on this Bill, then PH has taken the stance of not supporting this Bill in the form that has been tabled.
“I urge the government, especially the Health Minister, to withdraw this Bill and hold in-depth discussions with PH and the Opposition in general, so that a better form of an amendment to Act 342 can be obtained and agreed upon,” Saifuddin who is also Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP said.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has reduced some penalties on individuals and corporate bodies who flout the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
A copy of the documents given to MPs in the Dewan Rakyat on the proposed amendments to Act 342, was made available to Malay Mail.
The ministry is now proposing a maximum compound amount of RM500,000 for companies which is half of the initial RM1 million amount proposed in the Bill.
The ministry has not proposed lowering the maximum RM10,000 compound amount for individuals that was listed in the Bill.
As for the general penalty for offences committed under Act 342, the ministry has also proposed a maximum fine of RM50,000 and a maximum three years’ jail or both for individuals, which is about half of the Bill’s initial proposal of a maximum fine of RM100,000 and maximum seven years’ jail or both for individual offenders.
For corporate bodies such as companies that committed Act 342 offences, the ministry however did not propose lowering the maximum RM2 million fine that was listed in the Bill.
Initially, the MoH had proposed to introduce Section 31(3) into Act 342, which would enable regulations made under the Act to state that any action breaching the regulations is an offence and to state the penalties as a maximum RM50,000 fine or maximum two-year jail term or both.
Today, the ministry proposed that the new Section 31(3) instead specify the penalties for breaking regulations under Act 342 according to whether the offender is an individual or body corporate.
The ministry’s proposed new Section 31(3) today would state penalties for regulations breaches for individuals as a maximum RM20,000 fine or maximum three-year jail term or both, while body corporate such as companies can be penalised with a maximum RM1 million fine.
The three changes proposed today are on the maximum compound amounts and maximum penalties which can be imposed under the Act, which courted ire from the Opposition yesterday.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said that he and his bench members reject the Bill, citing concerns over the excessive penalties imposed on Covid-19 rule flouters.
In a statement on his Facebook page, the Port Dickson MP and PKR president said that the decision was reached after gauging responses from MPs and the public as well as after going through the proposed amendments to the Bill.
The Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for the first reading on Monday, and the government is hoping to have it passed tomorrow, the last parliamentary meeting for the year.
Currently Act 342 confers the director-general the power to offer a maximum compound amount of only RM1,000 that Act 342 offenders would have to pay to avoid being charged in court, following the repeal of the Emergency Ordinances (EOs) in Dewan Negara on December 8.
In a media briefing yesterday to explain the rationale for the proposed amendments to the Act, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that it was not viable to impose the same maximum RM1,000 compound amount on individual offenders and companies or organisations that violate the Covid-19 SOPs.
On December 8, the Senate approved a motion to revoke the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021; the Emergency (Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021.
The Emergency (Essential Powers) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, the Emergency (Offenders Compulsory Attendance) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and the Emergency (National Trust Fund) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 were also revoked.