Malaysia – To enable the Dewan Rakyat to discuss and vote on proposed amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (Act 342), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has consented to prolong the current Dewan Rakyat meeting.
He has also agreed to postpone Monday’s amended Bill proceedings.
The extension was made by Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun on behalf of Ismail Sabri, the prime minister and chairperson.
Concerned that the Bill was being pushed through Parliament, the Opposition bench asked that it be removed and re-tabled at the next parliamentary sitting.
It was Azizan who announced that the prime minister had consented to prolong the session for another day .
As per Dewan Rakyat Standing Order 11(2), the (extended) session will be held on Monday to allow for the table and vote on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (Act 342) (amendment).
Individuals might face up to three years in jail, a fine of up to RM50,000, or both under the proposed modifications to Act 342, while firms could face fines of up to RM2 million if convicted in court. The punishments were too much according to critics.
Following much criticism, the penalties were subsequently lowered, though quickly, in the Dewan Rakyat recently.
The original version of the Act 342 Amendment Bill 2021 suggested a RM1 million penalty for businesses and up to seven years in prison or a maximum RM100,000 fine for individuals guilty of violating the Act.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Port Dickson, PKR) reminded the Lower House that if the government refuses to lower the penalties, Pakatan Harapan members, who make up the biggest Opposition bloc, would vote against the Bill.
“Should all of the significant problems be resolved, we may consider supporting (the revisions), but if some of the substantive concerns remain unaddressed, we must have the option to oppose and reject the Bill,” Anwar added.
According to the Opposition Leader, many government backbenchers are also opposed to the amendment Bill.
“I must emphasize here that this (plan to reject the modifications) is not the result of a single party’s agreement. We’ve agreed to question some of the suggested adjustments on a bilateral basis,” he added.
After a heated conversation with many Opposition MPs, Khairy decided to postpone the tabling of the amending Bill.
The Bill’s second and third readings were originally set to be presented and voted on yesterday, prompting accusations that Putrajaya is attempting to force the revisions through.
The modifications, according to government critics, are punitive and prone to misuse.
The government has been defending itself against accusations of a double standard in its application of the legislation to individuals accused of violating Covid-19 health guidelines, with critics pointing to the frequently mild penalty meted out to politicians while members of the public are punished severely.