KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 16 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has denied that proposed amendments to Act 342 grant the Health director-general “absolute powers” to issue compounds as every fine must be authorised by the public prosecutor.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, during his winding-up speech on the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat today, said while the amendment Bill seeks to empower the Health DG and authorised health officials to offer compounds for offences under Act 342, they are limited by the Attorney General’s power as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution states that the AG has powers, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence, other than proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court or a court-martial.
“In other words, absolute power lies with the public prosecutor who has the capacity and discretion to allow or nullify the compounds offered and to institute proceedings against persons who were issued compounds,” Dr Azmi said.
“Therefore, there is no issue about the Health DG having absolute powers when it comes to issuing compounds as the compound can only be offered after written permission from the public prosecutor has been obtained,” he added.
Several lawmakers, including PAS MP Ahmad Fadhli Shaari, previously expressed disapproval over the provision that criminalises non-compliance with the Health DG’s instructions for infection control.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said his party and Pakatan Harapan (PH) would vote against proposed amendments to Act 342 due to the proposed excessive compounds as well as “unfettered and unlimited powers” granted to the Health DG.
Dr Azmi said the MOH held two meetings on November 8 and November 20 last year with the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on health, science and innovation to improve the proposed law.
Another meeting with the PSC, chaired by Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, will be held soon to finalise the Bill, Noor Azmi said.
The government withdrew the Bill during the last Dewan Rakyat meeting in December last year amid public outrage over harsher punishments mooted for breaching Covid-19 rules.
The Act 342 amendment Bill, which was first announced by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in a TV interview on December 12, roused vociferous protests not just from the general public, but even from Umno MPs like former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Khairy said he would re-table the Bill in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting after further stakeholder engagements to get bipartisan support in Parliament.