Malaysia Bagus News
Malaysia Bagus News
The decision by Malaysian prosecutors on Wednesday to drop an investigation into a minister who broke Covid-19 quarantine rules has been met with befuddlement, with a legal analyst saying the move could worsen fast-eroding public trust in the government’s handling of the health crisis.
The announcement by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) was the latest turn in the months-long saga involving Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali.
The 46-year-old politician has become a lightning rod for criticism over the purported double standards in the way virus-control measures have been applied by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration .
The ruling coalition, currently battling a messy internal power struggle, is also under fire for haphazardly announcing new rules as Covid-19 cases surge in a third wave of infections.
The minister first sparked controversy after he turned up in parliament on July 12 despite returning from an overseas trip to Turkey five days earlier.
With rules already in place at the time mandating all incoming travellers to self-isolate for 14 days, the episode triggered a public uproar, which the politician compounded by demurring in comments to the media when asked whether he broke the law.
The Health Ministry later fined him 1,000 ringgit (S$330) – far less than the penalties imposed on other citizens who committed similar offences – and Khairuddin offered to donate four months’ salary to the country’s Covid-19 relief fund.
But with discontent against Muhyiddin still simmering over the handling of the case, the police in early October said they had “resubmitted” investigation papers to prosecutors.
On Wednesday, the AGC said it had decided not to charge Khairuddin with breaching quarantine rules because he had not been served a “home surveillance or observation order” when he returned to the country.
It said the officer who tended to Khairuddin had used his “discretion” not to serve an order on the minister.
“Accordingly, based on the above consideration, the AGC has decided to not prefer any charge against the minister due to insufficient evidence and thus fails to meet the required burden of proof under the law,” it said in a statement.
Responding to the AGC’s decision, Lim Wei Jiet, a local constitutional lawyer, said “double standards and failure to uphold the rule of law” were a “very slippery slope”.
“The ordinary citizen gradually loses respect for the law and authorities, and don’t see the need to comply when some can get away with it,” Lim told This Week in Asia . “This kind of disobedience would then be detrimental to any government policy to control the transmission of Covid-19.”
Criticism of the decision came thick and fast online too.
Emmanuel Samarathisa, executive editor of online news portal The Vibes, questioned in a commentary published shortly after the AGC statement why Khairuddin was fined by the health ministry if he did not flout any laws.
He contrasted the non-punishment of Khairuddin to the penalty handed out to another Malaysian man this week for the same crime of breaching quarantine rules: a sentence of 14 days in jail and a 1,000 ringgit fine.
Boo Su-Lyn, chief editor of the local health news website CodeBlue, asked on Twitter: “If Khairuddin wasn‘t given a home quarantine order, according to police, then why did [the health ministry fine] him 1,000 ringgit and why did he pay it? What was the fine for, if he supposedly didn’t commit an offence?”
There was no immediate comment from Khairuddin or the prime minister’s office following the AGC’s announcement.
The country recorded 732 new infections on Wednesday, after four straight days of over 800 cases. Nearly 51 per cent of the 22,957 infections recorded since the start of the pandemic have occurred in October.
The source of the third wave has been widely attributed to the lack of social-distancing measures observed by politicians during campaigning ahead of polls in the state of Sabah on Sept 26.
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