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Saturday, October 30, 2021

SOP enforcement - double standards again?

 


Earlier this week, social media was abuzz when images and videos began streaming online of the official launch of the BN election machinery for the Malacca state elections.

The event was attended by top Umno leaders such as party president Zahid Hamidi, deputy president Mohamad Hasan, and former prime minister Najib Razak, along with the party’s Malacca state leadership.

It was held in the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTC KL), in the nation’s capital.

There is nothing extraordinary about an event to launch election machinery close to an election. All political parties have such events, although BN’s machinery launch is usually a full-blown affair attended by crowds of supporters.

Yet this particular event attracted attention because a few days before the event, Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin issued a statement that purports to ban ‘any election-related gatherings or social activities’ from Oct 25 to Nov 27.

His statement read: "To reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections and a spike in new cases, any activities, gatherings, or social functions related to the election is not permitted, including the launch of election machinery.”

What is interesting to note here is that according to the statement, the prohibition on activities, gatherings, or social functions is specific to the type of activity (in other words, election-related activities) instead of specific to the location (in this case, in Malacca).

This was also reflected in the National Security Council’s Standard Operating Procedure for Phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan, which prohibits election-related activities in Phase 4 states, which includes Kuala Lumpur and Malacca.

It thus would mean that having an election machinery launch in Kuala Lumpur for the Malacca state elections should not be allowed if the minister’s statement is being taken at face value.

It was later revealed that the Health Ministry had fined BN RM10,000 for ‘failing to ensure social distancing’ of those who attended the event.

Indeed, photos and videos showed crowds gathering around Umno leaders without observing social distancing.

Many cried foul at the news of the compound. The amount, RM10,000, is said to not be proportionate to a party such as BN that has ruled the country for 60 years.

It is a mere ‘slap on the wrist’, especially when over the past year we have seen individuals being issued the same amount for not wearing a mask or not scanning MySejahtera.

But more importantly, the treatment given to BN has again raised questions of double standards or ‘antara dua darjat’.

Why was BN allowed to have the event in the first place, despite the SOP for Phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan prohibiting such events?

The yet-to-be registered Muda a day or so earlier had a press conference in Malacca announcing their entry to the electoral fray, and they were issued compounds that amounted to RM4,000.

At most, there were only 10 Muda members and some press, a far cry from the hall filled with BN and Umno supporters in WTC KL.

Worryingly, it was also reported that Health Ministry officials appeared to now take the stance that election-related activities are only prohibited in the state of Malacca, which is different from the minister’s statement and also the SOP.

Thus far, the Health Minister has not said anything about his party’s grand event. Another minister, Minister of Defence Hishammuddin Hussein who also proudly tweeted about the prohibition on election-related events, even attended the launch.

The previous Muhyiddin Yassin administration was haunted by claims of selective enforcement and double standards when it came to enforcing the SOPs. Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration appears to inherit this worrying tradition. - Mkini


SYAHREDZAN JOHAN is a civil liberties lawyer and political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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