Khairy: Once again, govt defers second and third reading of Act 342 amendments

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has once again postponed the second and third reading of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the next Dewan Rakyat meeting.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the matter had been discussed with the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader.

Khairy added that the decision was reached during a special select committee on health, science and innovation chaired by its chairman Dr Kelvin Yii (PH-Bandar Kuching) on Monday (Dec 20) morning.

“This is in line with the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the spirit to reform Parliament.

“With regards to the proposed bill, it is important to have public acceptance and compliance, as it is related to public health measures that are needed, not only for Covid-19, but also all infectious diseases that arise,” he said in Parliament Monday.

“Therefore, I have presented to the committee the details of the proposed amendments, including the regulations and guidelines that are required in the amendments,” added Khairy.

“We also listened to the views from a group of health experts who provided their own views to the select committee.

“I was informed by the chairman that the committee had unanimously recommended for me to postpone the amendments, not because it is not agreed principally or related to other substantive matters that have already been agreed.

“However, it involved certain detailed matters that needed the agreement to be brought to the coming meeting,” he said, adding that he also agreed with the recommendations.

The decision to extend Dewan Rakyat meeting by an additional day to debate the Bill comes after intense engagement between Opposition leaders and Health Ministry officials on Thursday (Dec 16), following outcry over excessive penalties proposed under the amendments.

The Bill was tabled for the first reading on Tuesday (Dec 14), but saw Opposition MPs voicing concern over the excessive fines and prison terms to be imposed on companies and individuals that flout Covid-19 standard operating procedures.

On Wednesday (Dec 15), the Health Ministry proposed lowering the penalties by half in the wake of outcry over the initial sums proposed in the Bill.

The Bill initially proposed a maximum RM100,000 fine or seven years’ jail under Section 24(a) for individuals who flout Covid-19 regulations.

Also deemed excessive was the proposed RM1mil for a corporate body under Section 25(b).

Under the present Act 342, the health authorities are only empowered to impose a maximum fine of RM1,000 against companies and individuals who flout Covid-19 SOPs.

Khairy said the amendments were needed to manage the pandemic, as there was a possibility of the nation facing another wave of infections in the coming months.