Chong credits strong opposition presence for govt decision to defer controversial amendment bill

DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen

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KUCHING, Dec 21: A strong Opposition in Parliament forced the government to defer amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 yesterday, says Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen.

“In the said Amendment Bill, the government proposed to increase the maximum penalty on non-compliance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to RM100,000 for individuals and RM2,000,000 for companies.

“And for the director-general or any authorised officer to compound the offence, the Amendment Bill increases the compound amount from RM1,000 for both an individual and company to RM10,000 for individual and RM1 million for companies,” said Chong in a statement issued today.

He said for many individuals and the low-income group, RM1,000 is already a heavy compound amount; adding that RM10,000 is an impossible amount to pay.

He also said that to many small businesses, especially eateries, a compound of RM1 million would mean closing the business.

“Imagine, if a customer fails to wear a face mask for a few seconds and it happens that the enforcement caught him in the coffeeshop, a compound of RM10,000 will be issued to him and RM1 million will be issued to the coffeeshop owner,” said the Padungan assemblyman and Stampin MP.

The Bill was initially scheduled to be tabled and passed in Parliament last Thursday (Dec 16) before polling day for the 12th Sarawak Election, but was subsequently postponed to yesterday.

“This Amendment Bill was widely criticised and opposed by the public because of the unreasonably heavy fines and more so because of the worry amongst the people of unfair and oppressive enforcement.

“Notwithstanding the strong public opposition to the hefty fines proposed in the Amendment Bill, the Perikatan Nasional government insisted to have it passed in Parliament on Monday (Dec 20).

“Had it not been the presence of a strong Opposition coalition in Parliament constituting sufficient numbers to possibly defeat the Bill, the government would have had its way and the people would be at the mercy of the enforcement,” said Chong. — DayakDaily