KUCHING, Dec 15: The reopening of a fast food franchise restaurant near Central Park here less than 24 hours after it was ordered to close due to unhygienic conditions has become the talk of town.
From the official notice served by the Ministry of Health to the restaurant, the premises is supposedly temporarily closed for 14 days from Dec 13, 2017 at 2pm to Dec 27, 2017, under Section 11 of the Food Act 1983 on the grounds that it is unhygienic and may pose a risk to the safety and health of the public.
If the owner or occupier of the premises fails to comply with the order, he/she commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine or both.
However, the premises reopened for business on the Dec 14, with a netizen even sharing a post on social media of a meal they purportedly bought from the restaurant after it had reopened. Other netizens questioned whether there was any abuse of power involved as the premises could reopen so fast.
There has also been a photo circulating online, purportedly showing Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) youth chief Tan Kai in a meeting inside the premises with the restaurant manager and officials from the Health Department. A Health Department spokeperson had also reportedly said that the premise had already been cleaned and allowed to resume business as usual.
“As much as we support the right for businesses to run and support the welfare of their workers, however it must also follow the standards and guidelines set by the different authorities including the Ministry of Health especially when it involves the health and safety of the public,” Dr Kelvin Yii, special assistant to Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen told a press conference today.
Yii sought answers to four questions which he strongly believed are of public importance with regards to this matter:
(1) Why was the restaurant allowed to operate a day after the official closure notice by the Ministry of Health was served, despite the fact that it was clearly stated in the said notice that the premises will temporary be closed for 14 days?
(2) In what capacity was Tan Kai acting being present at the meeting between the owner of the premises and the officers from the Health Ministry?
(3) In the haste to re-open the business one day after the notice, what has the owner of the premises done to rectify the condition of his premises that it has satisfied the criteria of the Health Ministry?
(4) Since the restaurant was able to reopen only after a day, will it then send the wrong message to business owners that they can just decide to do the necessary cleaning only after getting caught, since they are still able to operate almost straight after? There seems to be no form of penalty for not following the required guidelines.
Yii urged the relevant authority to clarify the matter as the franchise markets itself as a family restaurant where many of their customers comprise children who may be more susceptible to diseases spread by pests.
He said that the issue is important as it involves the health and safety of the public at large.
“We do not want to give a perception that issues involving rogue business owners who put public health at risk can be “settled” through people in high places and authority.”
Yii said that there have been other business owners who have been also issued similar closure notices by the Health Ministry and those owners have to stop trading for the full duration of the 14 days while carrying out renovation of their premises to clean up. He questioned why special treatment to appeared to be given to the restaurant when Tan Kai is involved?
With the circulation of fake products including fake eggs and the recent fake baby milk formula, it is of utmost importance that the public health and safety is prioritised over any business interest. There should be no compromise especially when it comes to public health and the safety of the public at large especially when it involves children and families, he added. — DayakDaily