Fine increase opens loopholes for abuse, cautions MP

AP Photo

By John Isaac

THE latest increase of fines for non-compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) is not only hard-handed and punitive in nature, but opens up many loopholes for abuse.

Bandar Kuching MP, Dr Kelvin Yii said such abuse was most likely, especially against the poor, uninformed and also uneducated.

“It also creates an unnecessary burden to health officers who are already over-stretch, over-worked and even under-appreciated.

“Today, we have been receiving multiple complaints and been on the ground to help members of the public who seek help after claims of being unjustly fined up to RM10k for allegedly breaking Covid-19 SOPs,” he said.

Many of these involved the elderly, pensioners and the poor. In one such case, it involved an elderly (80 years old) who in the past week lost a son due to a preventable disease.

“He is still in shock and grief due to the passing of his beloved son. We were informed that he was sitting in a coffee shop alone feeling lost and sad. He eventually got up and walked out of the shop but forgot to wear his mask. He was then approached by enforcers who issued him a RM 10k fine,”.

He was very distraught as he cannot afford to pay the fine. He acknowledged that he forgot but couldn’t think straight and did not feel like himself for quite a while due to all that is going around him.

“While we strongly urge the public to follow all necessary SOPs, but it is also important for fair and equitable enforcement. Such policies which are not well thought off, open up to risks of abuse,” added Dr Kelvin.

“Our concerns over such high fines is how it opens risks for certain enforcers to “demand duit kopi” in exchange for not giving out the RM10k compound.

“While this does not involve all the enforcement officers where many are responsible in what they do, but without proper accountability, “bad apples” among them can abuse this law and oppress those who are desperate, uneducated or even unaware,” he stressed.

DAP members assisting the elderly man issued with an RM10k fine

Instead of purely focusing on the fight against Covid-19, the Health Department now has to deal with compounds issued by the police force.

They are already busy enough handling the Covid-19 crisis and now have to suffer due to the inefficiency of the PN government.

“Is this how we show our appreciation to our health workers?

“At end of the day, policies that help the compliance of SOPs are welcomed, but it must be educational in spirit, not punitive and more importantly, holistically address the issue without creating unnecessary burdens to health front liners and the people,” he said.