Covid-19 movement curbs still legal despite ‘outdated’ legislation, says lawyer

The government has imposed the movement control order in varying degrees nationwide to control the Covid-19 pandemic.

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has argued against the belief that police may be going beyond the bounds of the law when they arrest people who disobey the movement control order (MCO).

Commenting on former law minister Liew Vui Keong’s questioning of the legal validity of the MCO, criminal lawyer A Srimurugan said he believed Liew had wrongly interpreted the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

He said he agreed with Liew that Covid-19 was absent from the schedule of infectious diseases under the act, but he pointed to the schedule’s reference to “any other life threatening microbial infection”.

“It is true that the legislation is out of date and unable to list all current infectious diseases such as SARS and Covid-19, but it is still valid,” he told FMT.

Liew recently said it was “very unclear” whether the government had defined Covid-19 as an infectious disease.

“If there are no laws to say what is social distancing in Malaysia, how can you ask the police to arrest people for not complying with this social distancing order? You can’t do that,” he had said.

Srimurugan said authorities had the right to arrest people for not obeying the order for it could be considered as obstructing public servants from performing their duties.

However, he urged the authorities to be lenient with those flouting the MCO.

“There is no need to give first-time offenders the maximum fine and put them in jail,” he said. “A warning and a nominal fine are enough. What’s important is to educate the public.

“Punishments should only be given if they defy the MCO again. Imprisonment is then justified and won’t likely spark public outrage.

“I’m not condoning those flouting the MCO, but the court needs to understand the seriousness of jailing people. The offender will have a bad record for life.”

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