Ordinary Malaysians should not be given the wrong signal through double standards in enforcement, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
If it is true that Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali had breached the standard operating procedure (SOP) for curbing the Covid-19 pandemic, then he is in the same league as a 72-year-old Perak woman and a nasi kandar shop owner in Kedah.
They all defied the mandatory 14-day home quarantine regimen at the peril of people they were in contact with.
In the case of the nasi kandar shop owner, he is linked to the Sivagangga cluster that emerged in Kedah and later spread to Perlis and Penang, endangering the lives of many who patronised his shop and their respective contacts.
Meanwhile, the Perak woman was spotted having a meal at a restaurant while wearing a pink wristband.
The minister is said to have flouted the mandatory 14-day quarantine by attending a parliamentary session soon after his return from Turkey, a country that has seen many Covid-19 victims.
These three individuals share a common denominator – law-breaking.
What differentiates them is their stations in life, which gave rise to suspicion that the minister might have been accorded preferential treatment.
Such double standards may result in him not being punished accordingly.
In contrast, a fine of RM8,000 and a one-day jail were slapped on the woman while the nasi kandar shop owner was fined RM12,000 and given a five-month jail sentence under Section 15(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.
This differentiation notwithstanding, it is worth reminding that Covid-19 defies social hierarchy and, hence, menacingly kills anybody in its path.
Equally disturbing, such recalcitrant political leaders do not inspire others to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedure as they only serve as bad examples.
Besides, the arrogance that often accompanies such misconduct is revolting to ordinary folk.
We don’t expect our leaders concerned to resign their posts for having flouted their own rules, although there have been precedents in other countries where ministers stepped down on principles.
The authorities recently refused to entertain the request to reduce the penalty of not wearing masks in public places after a student was handed down a RM1,000 fine for breaking the standard operating procedures, presumably to impress upon the general public the gravity of such carelessness.
But this supposedly we-mean-business approach of the authorities may not be taken seriously by some people when they notice differential treatment being given to similar misdeeds.
We’ve already been warned of the dangers of having a second wave of the pandemic that would have much severe consequences. This might come about partly due to some people’s carelessness and lax attitude.
The economy, for one thing, has yet to be fully resuscitated after many industries and businesses had been shut down during the movement control order period.
Another bout of lockdowns would be devastating.
As it is, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) predicted that seven out of 10 manufacturers would take between four and 24 months before their businesses could recover following the enforcement of the movement control order.
Additionally, more than two-thirds of manufacturers will cut their staffing costs through pay cuts and retrenchment.
As of July, 17% of manufacturers have reduced their employee count by 10%-30%, while another 42% will be retrenching 10%-20% of their staff members from next year onwards.
This is worrying as the weak economy cannot afford to be battered again, while economic hardship still haunts many people ever since the start of the pandemic.
The seriousness of the matter must be reflected in the behaviour of people in authority.
Ordinary Malaysians cannot, and should not, be given the wrong signal.