DAP man highlights flaws in Covid-19 bill

The movement control order which affected many businesses was implemented on March 18.

PETALING JAYA: Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming today criticised the delay in the tabling of a Covid-19 bill, saying it will result in a lack of protection for many who were affected by the movement control order (MCO).

The DAP man said the “long-delayed” Temporary Measures for Reducing the Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Bill 2020 must be passed at the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, which means the earliest it can be gazetted is at the end of September.

“This is more than six months since the MCO was declared on March 18, 2020.”

He said if certain legal action and claims commenced or were concluded before the bill came into force, the protection provided by the bill would not apply.

“In other words, this bill is too little too late and does not provide the necessary relief to the groups most affected by the MCO.”

He also highlighted some flaws in the bill, saying that while Section 7 is supposed to protect those who cannot meet contractual obligations because of the MCO, the provisions under Section 10 negate this protection.

“For example, if you were a retailer renting a shop in a shopping mall and had your rental contract terminated by the shopping mall owner in July 2020 because you were not able to pay your rent during the MCO, then this bill would be irrelevant to you.”

Ong also said Section 10 of the bill might encourage more potential claimants to quickly file legal claims against companies in the next few months before the act comes into force.

Another loophole, he said, was Section 21 of the bill.

Whereas Section 20 increases the minimum threshold of debts before a creditor can commence a bankruptcy petition, Section 21 states that any proceedings under the Insolvency Act 1967 which are still pending before the act comes into force will be dealt with as if the Insolvency Act had not been modified by the Covid-19 bill.

“This encourages creditors to start bankruptcy proceedings against debtors before this act comes into force.

“What makes this bill even more frustrating is the fact that we had many months to study what other countries have done, including Singapore,” he said, noting that the republic passed its Covid-19 bill the same day its lockdown came into force on April 7.

He added that Singapore’s Covid-19 bill was more detailed, and that Malaysia could have provided a more comprehensive Covid-19 bill earlier.