When public outrage cannot be wished away

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Photograph by Tumisu/Pixabay

A minister who breaks quarantine should receive similar punishment as other citizens who break the law, Mustafa K Anuar writes.

There appears to be a slew of excuses offered lately as if to lessen the enormity of breaching the mandatory home quarantine order, ever since Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali returned from a hushed trip to Turkey.

After claiming that he had already paid a compound of a mere RM1,000 for his misconduct and promising to donate four months of his salary to the Covid-19 fund, Khairuddin insisted the problem had been settled. But judging from the brickbats thrown at him, that might be more wishful thinking than reality.

Later, he rejected a clarion call for him to resign over the misdemeanor, saying the mistake he made had got nothing to do with his job as a minister.

His comrades-in-arms in Pas argued that Khairuddin had done the country a great service by allegedly clinching an outstanding palm oil trade deal with Turkey. He should instead be hailed a hero, they insisted.

Pas spiritual leader Hashim Jasin even likened the minister to prophet Solomon’s hoopoe or hud-hud bird, which had brought great benefits to the community. The controversial reference to the Holy Qur’an appeared to be an attempt to put a stamp of divine approval on his quarantine breach.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hashim even blamed the health and foreign affairs ministries for their failure to ensure Khairuddin complied with the regulation – a serious accusation of dereliction of duty on the part of the authorities.

Surely, Khairuddin as a minister would – and should – know his obligations to obey rules and regulations pertaining to the pandemic, just as the public are expected to know the standard operating procedures, particularly for returnees from overseas travel. The implications of not adhering to these procedures should not be lost on Khairuddin. They are simply meant to curb the dangerous coronavirus from spreading and killing people.

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To be clear, his transgression of the law does affect the office of the minister of plantation industries and commodities in the sense that it is now smudged by Khairuddin’s violation of health regulations. He has a moral duty to not drag the good name of his office into the mud. Hence, resignation appears to be the only recourse available to him.

Besides, he should be guided by some of his colleagues’ contention that they are not in politics merely for power. Presumably, they are there solely to serve the people.

It is also vital that a minister who breaks quarantine should receive similar punishment as other citizens who break the law. In other words, the rule of law must be applied equally to all.

Surely a wrong by any other name is still wrong.

Source: themalaysianinsight.com

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