PAS MP Opposes ‘Absolute’ Powers For Health DG In Act 342 Amendment

Pasir Mas MP Ahmad Fadhli Shaari says “absolute” powers for the Health director-general can lead to abuse of power; Lim Guan Eng says PH will vote against the Act 342 amendment Bill.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 – Pasir Mas MP Ahmad Fadhli Shaari today rejected a provision in the Act 342 amendment Bill that criminalises non-compliance with the Health director-general’s instructions for infection control.

Section 21A of the proposed amendment to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) states that the Health director-general can issue any form of directive, whether general or specific, to any person or groups to “take any action” for the purpose of preventing and controlling any infectious disease. 

Failure to abide by the Health director-general’s orders is considered an offence. 

“In general, I have no objections to the Bill, with the exception of Section 21A,” Ahmad Fadhli, a government MP, said in his debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat today.

“The issue with Section 21A — I know this will be debated later on, but I’d like to state this now — is that it gives absolute power to the Health director-general without the need to refer to any parties, and this is dangerous as it could lead to abuse of power.

“Wouldn’t it be more sensible for decision-making powers to be given to a council and not be left to the discretion of one director-general?”

The amendment Bill, which was tabled for first reading in Parliament last December, also enhances general penalties for offences under Act 342 to up to seven years’ imprisonment, a fine not exceeding RM100,000, or both for individuals, as well as a maximum RM2 million fine for companies upon conviction. 

Act 342 is currently used to regulate the breach of Covid-19 standard operating procedures like not wearing face masks in public, attending a crowded event, or patronising a pub that is still a prohibited activity during the pandemic.

Ahmad Fadhli, who is also PAS Youth chief, compared the seven-year jail sentence in the Act 342 amendment Bill to an equivalent punishment for violent crimes like Section 325 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Section 363 for kidnapping, Section 506 for criminal intimidation, Section 379 for theft, and Section 393 for attempted robbery, as highlighted by CodeBlue last year.

“I do acknowledge that violating Covid rules is wrong, but should the people be oppressed to that extent and be fined with a completely unreasonable amount?” Ahmad Fadhli said. 

“I believe this section needs to be reviewed and Members of Parliament must heed public opinion and wishes from the people so that they are no longer oppressed from these issues.” 

DAP secretary-general and Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng subsequently, in his debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address, also made reference to the Act 342 amendment Bill, stating DAP and, he believed, Pakatan Harapan lawmakers’ intention to challenge and vote against the Bill.

The Act 342 amendment Bill raises 10-fold compounds of offences to a maximum RM10,000 for individuals and up to RM1 million for businesses and organisations.

“If we talk about enhancing measures, we can offer our support. But if you’re talking about raising the punishment to RM10,000 for individuals and RM1 million for organisations, and for general penalties up to RM100,000 and RM2 million, respectively – I think this is irrational and we should not put the blame on the people.

“If there is anyone to blame, it is the federal government, especially its ministers,” Lim said. 

On Covid vaccinations, Ahmad Fadhli called for the government to be more transparent on issues with side effects from the vaccine that affected some individuals and groups.

“I am not against vaccines, I am pro-vaccine. In fact, I am among the first few MPs to get a booster shot. But there is no denying that some people have been affected by vaccinations. 

“How many complaints has the government received so far on these cases, and what is the total amount paid in compensation by the government to those who suffered adverse effects from the vaccines?” Ahmad Fadhli said.

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