It is understandable why ordinary Malaysians are upset when government leaders flout the movement control order and seem to get away with it, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
The government’s movement control order is obviously meant to ensure social distancing is practised to break the chain of Covid-19 infections.
Hence, the directive’s extension indicates the increasing seriousness of the outbreak, and the desperation to contain the disease is made apparent with the announcement that movement control order violators will be detained and charged in court.
To show that the authorities mean business, many of those caught flouting the order have been arrested – with some even handcuffed.
In the early phase of the movement control order, cardiologist Dr Ong Hean Teik was caught jogging in Penang’s City Park. The 61-year-old was charged under Section 186 of the Penal Code, which provides for imprisonment of up to two years or a maximum fine of RM10,000 or both, upon conviction.
Dr Ong was also charged under Rule 3(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020.
In another case, an 18-year-old student was jailed in Kelantan after failing to post his RM800 bail. He breached the movement control order by going out to buy instant noodles.
Two men who were caught fishing – to feed their families – were sentenced by the Sungai Siput Magistrates’ Court to three months’ jail. Later, the Taiping High Court reduced the sentence to three months of community service.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable why ordinary Malaysians, particularly social media users, are up in arms over cabinet members and other politicians from the ruling pact who have flouted the order.
The latest example of a law-breaking dignitary is Deputy Rural Development Minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad, who celebrated his birthday with a group of visitors.
In a recent Facebook post seen by the Malaysian Insight, Rahman appears in photos being wished “Happy Birthday” and a prosperous life by people around him, as if unaware that the movement control order is in force.
Then there’s Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, who posted – and later deleted – about his visit to a tahfiz school, where he handed over goodies and had a meal with his entourage.
Dr Noor Azmi should thank his lucky stars that he’s not in New Zealand, where Health Minister David Clark was demoted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the cabinet rankings after he broke lockdown rules. To be fair, Clark did offer his resignation, but it was rejected by Ardern.
As rightly pointed out by Umno vice-president Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Dr Noor Azmi, as deputy health minister, should know the risks of socialising at this time. He should have instead set a good example for Malaysians to follow.
Similarly, Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and former MB Ahmad Said breached the movement control order when they made social visits and sat down for a sumptuous meal together.
And, not to mention Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, who donned a hazmat suit during a disinfection exercise when medical frontline staff are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment.
Critics fear that if such misdeeds are not promptly stopped, a new Covid-19 cluster will emerge – the ministerial cluster, if you like.
When pressed for concrete action to be taken, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob insisted that “no one can be above the law”.
But in the same breath, he said he will leave it to police to act, which begs the question, why the need for an investigation when these dignitaries’ violation of the movement control order is as clear as day?
Indeed, Ismail Sabri’s response is in stark contrast with the on-the-spot arrests of ordinary citizens who breach the movement control order. Surely the dignitaries in question deserve the same treatment as other lawbreakers.
Anything short of this would be double standards, and concern over the matter is now making its frenzied rounds on social media.