KUALA LUMPUR: Is it reasonable to impose a compound as high as RM50,000 for standard operating procedure (SOP) violations, when many are still struggling due to the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?
The question is raised by netizens, who disagreed with the actions taken by the Kelantan police against several small traders in the state.
For them, the actions were extreme, inappropriate and lack of empathy, because such heavy compound fines were issued to the common people who were only operating small-scale businesses.
Their dissatisfaction mounted on Tuesday when celebrity and entrepreneur Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor or Neelofa and her family were slapped with a total compound of RM60,000 for failing to comply with the SOPs during her wedding ceremony and breaching regulations on the interstate travel.
It sparked criticisms over the alleged ‘double standard’ treatment for celebrities or politicians and ordinary people.
The polemic has caused the Kelantan police and Health Ministry to re-evaluate the three cases, and on whether to give a reduction or an exemption which proves that the element of consideration still exists in the enforcement of the law.
The issue also grabbed Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s attention, who urged enforcement agencies to adopt a more prudent approach in ensuring SOP compliance.
He said firmness was important to ensure the rules were adhered to but there should be discretion and humanity in actions taken within the scope of the law so that efforts to educate the community would be more acceptable.
Muhyiddin said he understood and sympathised with the difficulties of the people in finding a source of income to ensure their survival in a pandemic situation, including of those who tried to run small businesses like selling burgers, snacks, drinks or agricultural produce.
“These people are not owners of large companies or business establishments but only licence holders to run their own businesses on a small scale.
“So even if we want to take action for violating the SOPs and the rules, we should be considerate. Impose a compound but at a reasonable rate,” Muhyiddin said.
Commenting on the issue, legal adviser of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Prof Dr Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmod said there was a possibility that the heavy compound imposed on several traders in Kelantan was due to misunderstanding.
“Referring to the three cases in Kelantan, the enforcement officers might have considered them to be in the corporation/organisation category. Therefore, the categories need to be clear, if not, this will recur,” he told Bernama.
The Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 states that companies or corporations that violate the SOP can be fined up to RM50,000 while RM10,000 for individual.
Meanwhile, lawyer Muhammad Akram Abdul Aziz said the authorities should use their discretion when issuing compound notices.
“The ‘double standard’ issue was raised because many had the perception that the authorities were selective in enforcing the law. While many were issued with compounds ‘spontaneously’ at the scene, there were cases where the authorities were seen as slow in taking action.
“In my opinion as a legal practitioner, each case has different facts despite framed under the same the law. This is because there are cases that need further investigations, and there are some that can be concluded earlier.
“So, it is not fair for us to accuse the authorities of practising ‘double standard’ without knowing the full background of the case,” he said. – Bernama