KUALA LUMPUR, August 13 — Over 100 Members of Parliament across the aisle have petitioned the government to slash the fine for not wearing a face mask in public from RM1,000 to RM250 for first offences.
The petition started by DAP lawmakers — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii and Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi — proposed that compound for non-compliance with the face mask rule in crowded public areas be introduced in stages: first-time offenders — RM250, second offence — RM500, and repeat offenders — RM1,000.
Dr Yii and Wong urged the government to impose different quantums of the RM1,000 compound by amending the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) — which provides for a maximum fine of RM1,000, up to six months’ jail, or both for violations — to prove that Perikatan Nasional (PN) was not a “double standard” government.
The proposed RM250 for first offences of not wearing face masks in crowded public spaces is equivalent to the smoking compound, which the DAP lawmakers noted was the amount paid by Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein for recently vaping in the Dewan Rakyat during session.
They highlighted the viral case of a teenager who wept openly after he was fined RM1,000 for not wearing his face mask properly at a train station. The MPs also cited the case of a woman who was fined while she was on her way back to her car to get her mask, upon realising she forgot to wear it.
“On the other hand, photos of ministers on social media showed that the ruling elites are attending crowded events without wearing masks or not wearing them properly. Yet, no one has been punished,” said Dr Yii at a press conference in Parliament here today.
“Ordinary Malaysians feel deeply hurt by the double standards practiced by the authority.”
A total of 102 MPs from different parties and coalitions have signed the petition to lower the fine for failure to wear face masks in public, Dr Yii told CodeBlue. Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders have signed the petition, including Opposition Leader and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, and Permatang Pauh MP Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who recently started an independent Malay party called Pejuang, also signed the petition. The few government MPs who supported the call for smaller fines over violations of the face mask rule included Nazri Aziz (Padang Rengas), Bung Moktar Radin (Kinabatangan) and Lukanisman Awang Sauni (Sibuti).
The petition pointed out that in Australia, the fine for not wearing a face covering in public areas is AU$200, which is only 6.7 per cent of the monthly minimum wage in Australia, whereas in Malaysia, the RM1,000 compound is equivalent to 83 per cent of the monthly minimum salary.
“We fully understand the rationale of implementing mandatory mask-wearing policy. Yet, we reckon that the RM1,000 compound is way too excessive for ordinary Malaysians during this economic trying times,” Dr Yii said.
“The compound is meant to be educational and not punitive.”
The petition also stated that the government should find a way to provide free face masks, especially for the bottom 40 per cent (B40) group, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
It suggested that MPs work with the government and public health non-governmental organisations to raise public awareness on the importance of this policy, and also to teach the public on the proper use of face masks to curb coronavirus transmission and the best way to discard them.
“Malaysians want a fair treatment from the government and a government who takes moderate approaches to help them get by,” said Dr Yii.
The Bandar Kuching MP submitted an emergency motion today to the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat on the amendment of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.