S’wak Chinese group says RM10,000 SOP compound too steep, moots community service


Dato Richard Wee

KUCHING (Mar 15): The Sarawak Federation of Chinese Associations has urged the government to review its regulations on the enforcement of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP) as it felt the new RM10,000 compound on violators was too heavy.

Its president Dato Richard Wee questioned whether such a high compound could effectively raise awareness about the need for compliance with the SOP, adding that it was vital for the authorities to be fair when issuing the compounds on violators.

“The government must review the relevant regulations. My opinion is that first time offenders should be fined RM1,000 and the authorities should only increase subsequent fines for repeat offenders, as not all ought to be punished severely,” he said in a statement.

“I urge the police to issue compounds humanely and reasonably according to the situation, and not with the aim of bankrupting the people.”

He added that as the law states that the penalty for SOP violators was not more than RM10,000, the authorities have the discretion on the amount when issuing compounds.

Wee believed that not all people deliberately violated the SOP but could have just forgotten to wear face masks.

“The hefty fine of RM10,000 is not affordable by all social classes. Besides, can such heavy penalties truly raise awareness? This is worth a thought,” he said.

He also urged the government to consider community service as a penalty for flouting the SOP.

“The government should make SOP violators serve community service and incorporate promoting Covid-19 awareness into SOP penalties.

“The RM10,000 compound for SOP flouters could be too heavy of a fine for low- income groups. It could lead to social problems when certain people are forced to face jail sentences because they could not afford to settle their fines,” he said.

Wee stressed that the enforcement authorities must be transparent when taking action against SOP violators.

“In the execution and implementation of enforcement duties, it must be conducted fairly, equitably and efficiently in order to gain the confidence and trust from the people and the public,” said Wee.

Last Thursday, Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said the compound for flouting the SOP was raised to RM10,000 from RM1,000 under the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases)(Amendment) Ordinance 2011.

He said the decision to raise the compound was not to punish offenders excessively or to enable the government to collect money from the public, but is aimed at individuals who repeated the same offence such as failure to wear face mask, observe physical distancing and provide temperature screening facility at their premises.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan later explained the amount written on the compound notice was not final as the individual could still go to the District Health Office to make an appeal.