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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Sabah leaders rally behind chief minister over decision to ease lockdown restrictions

 Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Hajiji Noor announced that dine-in was to be allowed as of yesterday but has since hit a snag because it had not obtained a federal gazette. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Hajiji Noor announced that dine-in was to be allowed as of yesterday but has since hit a snag because it had not obtained a federal gazette. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KOTA KINABALU, June 30 — Sabah leaders have rallied behind the state’s move to relax some socio-economic standard operating procedures (SOPs), including allowing dine-in, while the national movement control order (MCO) is still in effect.

Sabah Umno chief Datuk Bung Moktar Radin was among those who defended chief minister Datuk Hajiji Noor’s announcement that dine-in was to be allowed as of yesterday but has since hit a snag because it had not obtained a federal gazette.

“The state’s move to implement its own recovery plan should be seen positively. The decision made by the state was based on current data and facts which show that Sabah was recording far fewer cases than some states in Semenanjung Malaysia.

“As a leader in Sabah, the state decision was made together after discussions and I stand firm behind the chief minister on this,” he said in a statement here today.

Bung said that he also understood the National Security Council’s intentions in wanting to curb the pandemic but that the state’s decision was to help the various economies and industries start their recovery.

“If there are SOPs which can cause the virus to spread, I’m sure the state government will not be calling for the move.

“What is important now is that the government needs to expedite vaccination to all Malaysians, including those in Sabah,” he said.

Another deputy chief minister, Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan, said the state should stand firm on its decision and manage its own SOPs which have proven effective so far based on its case trend.

“The state government should insist on the SOP it has decided, especially on dining in. This is because this has been discussed in the Cabinet and fully endorsed by all of us. It has some basis which is that dine-in is easier to control because you can arrange how many people can sit at a table, as opposed to kenduri in kampungs which are very difficult to control.

“The state knows what it is doing and should stick with the decision,” he said.

Kitingan said that the state has been managing the Covid 19 crisis here better than other places and should be allowed to handle things the way it sees fit.

“The way we handle it is best managed at the moment; they should follow us,” said the Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president.

Among other SOPs, he said normal activities should be allowed to take place within green zones, but not allow outsiders in.

Parti Bersatu Sabah secretary general Datuk Joniston Bangkuai also said that the Sabah government had studied the situation and understood the need to balance the safety of the people and reviving the economy.

“We are confident that the federal government understands what is good and necessary for Sabah because, especially since the matter was discussed in the Sabah Covid-19 Disaster Management Committee which also includes federal government agencies such as the police, Health Department and National Security Council.

“The federal government leaders, including Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, have always reiterated their understanding of the needs and wants of the Sabah people,” he said.

Critics have attacked Hajiji for what seems like a premature announcement to allow socio-economic activities such as dining in, barber shops, as well as non-contact sports and recreational activities such as golfing, fishing and cycling.

He announced on Monday that the activities would be allowed the next day, June 29, in contrast to the rest of the country, which is still under a “total lockdown”.

However, as of Monday night, no new SOPs were released, triggering state-wide confusion the next day.

Some coffee shops that opened for dine-in removed their tables and chairs after patrolling Health officials told them they were not allowed to do so despite the announcement.

Federal Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob later said that all states have been asked to follow the national SOP and not make their own rules.

However, state Covid-19 spokesman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, in his daily statement, said that the decision had been made, and the state secretary would be releasing the SOPs.

Online, opinion is divided between those who criticise the state government for the confusing announcement and those who support Hajiji over what seems like an autocratic move by the federal government.

Opposition MP Datuk Azis Jamman also backed the state’s decision and urged Hajiji to be brave in standing firm for Sabahans who are suffering under the weight of the lockdown. - malaymail

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