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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Dzul: Don't call for stricter punishments when they are already lopsided


Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has disputed the call by the inspector-general of police to raise the compound fine of RM1,000 imposed on offenders found flouting the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the movement control order (MCO), following a spike in Covid-19 cases nationwide.

Instead, the Kuala Selangor MP urged authorities to apply a "soft approach" so people would be able to integrate the SOPs into their daily lives as a good habit and without force. 

"As much as we would like to see greater compliance to SOPs a 'soft approach' must be the way.

"In matters of public health, we always choose a voluntary, rewarding, inviting atmosphere as we are aiming for behavioural change.

"SOPs are about drilling the concept of a new set of behavioural changes into the minds of the public and this change can only be achieved through empowerment," Dzulkefly told Malaysiakini.

"The reason we are not successful is because the narrative has not been clear and also perceived as being too vindictive and punitive," he added.  

He pointed out that as long as the government was seen to be strict with the ordinary people and lax with its own members, harsher punishments were going to backfire.

"Worse still, it is also perceived as being a lopsided approach to handling cases when it involves members of the public versus well-known individuals (aka VIPs) and this ends up exacerbating public discontent.

"We cannot use the stick as this will create even more despondency and tension to an already sensitive situation," said the Amanah politician.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali's failure to adhere to mandatory quarantine after a trip to Turkey last year was perceived as having being met with a slap on the wrist while other ordinary citizens received harsh sentences for SOP violations.

Dzulkefly said that education is a key factor in changing mindsets.

"We must aim at deploying the use of proven scientific theories.

"And none of the theories ever show that fear or fines actually improve the situation. It is empowerment that is the core essence of behavioural change," he added.

He suggested that a better strategy would be to convert the sentences of non-compliant individuals or rule-breakers to community service.

"Say they break the rule on mask-wearing, perhaps the sentence can be to make them mask advocators at a public area for eight hours," he said. - Mkini

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