KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — The government has drafted a slew of draconian measures in amendments to the Emergency Ordinance that will take effect on March 11 to combat Covid-19.
Among the 10 amendments and new provisions under the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, a new Section 15A allows the use of tracker devices with the latest technology to control the movements of infected people, those suspected to be infected, or close contacts to positive cases.
“Under this Ordinance, penalties will be imposed on individuals affixed with a tracing device or detection tool if they destroy, damage, lose, or tamper with the device,” Health Minister Dr Adham Baba and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan said in a joint statement today.
According to the written Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, the tracing device is a wristband or any device provided by the authorities.
A new Section 31 empowers the authorities to impose penalties under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) for “any offence not stated in it”.
“Regulations made under this new subsection may prescribe any act in contravention of the regulations to be an offence, which is subject to a fine not exceeding RM50,000, or imprisonment not more than six months, or both,” said Dr Adham and Takiyuddin.
A new Section 21A empowers the Health director-general to issue instructions under Act 342, whereas previously, the Health director-general’s powers were previously subject to Movement Control Order rules.
“With this new provision, the Health director-general can issue any instructions, whether general or specific, to any people or a group of people to take steps to prevent and control infectious diseases.”
A new Part IVA states that every offence punishable under the Emergency Ordinance is a seizable offence. Besides that, it provides powers of investigation, to require the furnishing of information, and to make arrests in relation to the prevention and control of infectious diseases.
“Currently, there is no source of authority, which complicates enforcement. The Criminal Procedure Code will be used in enforcing powers of arrest,” said Dr Adham and Takiyuddin.
Section 25 of Act 342 has been amended to increase the original compound rate for offences from maximum RM1,000 to maximum RM10,000 for individuals and not more than RM50,000 for corporate bodies. The amendment also allows officers from statutory bodies or local councils to issue compounds.
The police have been regularly issuing RM1,000 fines to people for violating SOPs like not wearing face masks, not physically distancing, or not recording the details of patrons to premises.
Section 24 of Act 342 has been amended to increase the general penalty of maximum five years’ jail, a fine, or both, to maximum seven years’ imprisonment, RM100,000 fine, or both, “by taking into account the severity of an outbreak and offenders from large-scale industries”.
Dr Adham and Takiyuddin said the penalty and compound rate were raised to prevent individuals and corporate bodies from committing an offence and to always follow SOPs and instructions by the government.
They added that the increased punishments were also meant as a “lesson to people not to repeat offences”.
A new Section 22A enables officers of corporate bodies to be charged with offences under Act 342 and shall be deemed guilty, unless it can be proven that the offences were committed without their knowledge or consent, and that they had taken all reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.
This provision also makes corporate bodies liable for acts, omission, neglect or default committed by their employees, an agent acting on behalf of the person, or an employee of the agent during the course of employment or otherwise on behalf of the agent acting on behalf of that person.
The government amended Section 10 of Act 342 to enable medical practitioners to notify the Ministry of Health (MOH) about any infectious disease cases at any premise, even without laboratory testing confirmation.
“This is to ensure that investigation, prevention, and control of infectious diseases can be done early while awaiting lab results.”
Malaysia’s state of emergency empowers the federal government to enact and enforce legislation without parliamentary approval. Parliament has been suspended during the emergency, scheduled until August 1, that Perikatan Nasional claims is necessary to combat the Covid-19 epidemic.
It is unclear why the government decided to utilise such wide-ranging enforcement powers at this point, given that authorities have been claiming a reduction of Covid-19 infections and lifted lockdown measures.