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Friday, June 30, 2023

Educate public on by-laws, local authorities told


The Kota Bharu Municipal Council fined a 35-year-old business owner for not wearing “decent clothes”. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has called on the municipal authorities to prioritise educating the public on their by-laws before taking action to enforce them.

Mustaqeem Aziz was commenting on the Kota Bharu Municipal Council (MPKB) issuing a compound notice to a non-Muslim woman in Kelantan for wearing shorts in her own shop.

He said the authorities ought to first make their by-laws known to the public before proceeding to enforce them.

“Those who have been fined have the right to know the details of the laws the authorities are referring to instead of simply being told the section (they are alleged to have infringed).

“It’s all about integrity, if the authorities are eager to issue fines, they should equally be eager to educate the public about laws and make them accessible,” he told FMT.

On Sunday, MPKB issued a compound notice to a 35-year-old business owner during a spot check by its enforcement officers at her shop.

MPKB president Rosnazli Amin was reported to have said the woman committed an offence under Section 34(2)(b) of the Business and Industrial Trade By-Laws 2019, which states that non-Muslim business owners and their non-Muslim employees must wear “decent clothes”.

According to the compound notice, a picture of which has been circulated on social media, the woman has seven days to settle the amount or face legal action.

FMT checked MPKB’s website but found that the Business and Industrial Trade By-Laws were not displayed for the public to see or read. FMT has contacted the council for comment.

Lawyers for Liberty director Zaid Malek said MPKB’s use of Section 34(2)(b) was a “backdoor attempt to impose Islamic morality onto non-Muslims”.

He said although the by-laws included a definition of “decent attire”, it was still subjective and open to interpretation.

Zaid said that under the Local Government Act 1976 local authorities were empowered to enact by-laws necessary for the maintenance of health, safety and wellbeing of their inhabitants. However, regulating attire was out of the ambit of their powers, he added.

Lawyer Arik Zakri Abdul Kadir said it was crucial for local governments to send a clear and consistent message to the public on by-laws and their limits because the people might not be aware of what is permissible.

“People carry with them public morals and common sense, not law books.

“What is common sense in one place may not be so common in another. This is Kota Bharu we are talking about, not Bangsar or Mont Kiara, where attire at business premises may or may not be enforced in the same manner,” he said.

Earlier this week, local government development minister Nga Kor Ming urged MPKB to retract the compound notice issued to the woman.

According to China Press, Nga said it was the woman’s right to wear a pair of shorts as she was not a Muslim, adding that her freedom was enshrined in the Federal Constitution. - FMT

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