Sarawak has the right to fight Covid-19 outbreak on its own terms, say Sarawak leaders

Masing (left) and Dr Sim.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, May 5: Two senior Sarawak cabinet members today defended the Sarawak government’s decision not to follow the federal government’s Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) effective yesterday by emphasising that Sarawak has the right to fight the Covid-19 pandemic through its own plans and strategies.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing stated that the Sarawak government’s decision not to implement CMCO was to ensure that the Covid-19 outbreak was effectively tackled and ensure the safety of its people against the disease.

“Before our economy can rise, our people must be healthy first. We cannot have a healthy economy with sick people. So we get our priorities right. We must beat the spread of Covid-19 first, and only then can we have a chance to improve our economy. It’s not the other way round.

“It’s my hope that Putrajaya appreciates the individual state’s rights to defend and safe the lives of its people,” said Masing.

He insisted that Sarawak was not questioning Putrajaya’s decision to ease MCO with the imposition of CMCO.

“Whether the state has the legal right not to follow Putrajaya’s CMCO is completely another issue in our fight against Covid-19,” he said, emphasising the importance of breaking the chain of transmission through social distancing.

“I’m not a lawyer, but whatever the state legal rights are, the state must be allowed to defend its citizen’s lives based on the advice of medical experts who have better knowledge Covid-19, and not on guidelines of economic experts,” added Masing.

Similarly, Dr Sim said he may not be a lawyer but as a medical practitioner, he had taken the oath to heal the sick.

“I was told that public health is listed under concurrent (Federal and State) list 7 and Article 79 on the need for consultation with Sarawak. Sarawak’s has its own local government ordinance which is not covered under the Malaysia law.

“While the legal profession is getting excited over all these laws, Sarawak government is responsible for the health and wellbeing of Sarawakians,” said Dr Sim in his Facebook post.

He pointed out that the Sarawak government made the decision based on Sarawakians’ interest.

“Every Sarawakian has a role to play. Please play your role seriously. Together, we shall overcome Covid-19 pandemic,” added Dr Sim.

Sarawak is among many states in the country which did not follow the CMCO along with Sabah, Selangor, Kedah, Penang, Kelantan, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan.

Their reluctance has earned the criticism of some federal leaders such as Senior Minister Datuk Azmin Ali and Senior Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakub who warned that these states could face legal actions from the business communities.

Azmin has claimed that the federal government has consulted all the menteri besars and chief ministers before enforcing the CMCO.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, when announcing the CMCO on Friday, had said certain economic and social activities would be allowed except for mass gatherings which would expose the public to Covid-19 infections.

He said the MCO which had been in place since March 18 had seen the country incur RM63 billion in economic losses.

Muhyiddin said if the partial lockdown continued another month, losses would touch nearly RM100 billion.

The CMCO, gazetted yesterday and signed by the health minister, repeals the earlier stricter version of the MCO.—DayakDaily