Use Public Order Act to keep public at home, lawyer urges Putrajaya

Many people are not obeying the movement control order enforced from March 18, resulting in the armed forces going to the assistance of the police from Sunday.

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has urged Putrajaya to use the Public Order (Preservation) Act 1958/1983 to effectively keep the public indoors to check the spread of Covid 19.

N Sivananthan said this legislation had “more punch” than the government’s earlier announcement on the movement control order (MCO), under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

“The Public Order Act has all the means desired to keep the people indoors once the home minister makes a proclamation,” he told FMT.

He said this law could be applied nationwide or in selected police districts.

N Sivananthan

“Subsequently, the police chief of any state or district can exercise their powers under the Act to suit local requirements, including imposing a curfew, without referring to their superiors,” he added.

Sivananthan said the penalties under this law were quite punitive, including a jail term of up to 10 years and whipping, depending on the nature of the offences.

A Federal Government Gazette published two days ago states those who refuse to follow directives under the MCO could be fined up to RM1,000 or jailed a maximum of six months or both.

“Under the MCO, enforcement officers can only issue summonses to offenders while the police can arrest anyone for breaching the Public Order Act,” he added.

SN Nair

Under the nationwide MCO, announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday, no one can “make any journey” from one place to another except to perform official duties, to perform and provide essential services, to purchase, supply or deliver food or daily necessities, to seek treatment or for any other purpose permitted by the director-general of health.

Over the last two days, many members of the public had been ignoring the requirements under the MCO. This has resulted in the mobilisation of the armed forces from Sunday to help the police implement the MCO.

Meanwhile, lawyer SN Nair said police could also enforce Section 31 of the Police Act 1967 that allowed them to impose curfews nationwide or in selected parts of the country.

Those who breached this law can be fined up to RM500 or jailed up to six months upon conviction, he added.