Coronavirus: Anger at Malaysian minister who skipped quarantine

He attended Parliament session just days after returning from unofficial trip to Turkey

Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali had tested negative for Covid-19.
Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali had tested negative for Covid-19.

Malaysia's Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali is under fire after he failed to undergo mandatory quarantine following an overseas trip last month.

Opposition lawmaker Teresa Kok from the Democratic Action Party told Parliament on Tuesday that Mr Khairuddin, a lawmaker from Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), had returned from an unofficial visit to Turkey on July 7, but was in Parliament on July 13.

"Many Malaysians and foreigners who returned from overseas and tested negative for Covid-19 were still required to undergo quarantine for 14 days. Why is special treatment given for a Cabinet minister?" Ms Kok said in a statement yesterday.

In Malaysia, anyone returning from overseas must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Returnees are tested on arrival, and again in two weeks.

"People have tested negative but were found positive a few days later. This is why the 14-day quarantine rule must be obeyed by everyone, including the minister," said Ms Kok, adding that Mr Khairuddin's presence at Parliament and meetings had put others at risk.

"The court must take action against him to prove that the NSC (National Security Council) does not practise double standards in terms of enforcement towards Covid-19 offences."

A source close to Mr Khairuddin told The Straits Times that the minister had undergone a Covid-19 test upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 7 which was negative.

"He had also undergone a second test three days before the July 13 parliamentary session which was negative," said the source.

The July 13 session witnessed a key vote to remove the previous Speaker, and the ruling Perikatan Nasional government, with its razor-thin majority, won the vote 111-109.

The minister's failure to undergo quarantine has raised questions among netizens over double standards, as ordinary Malaysians who broke quarantine orders have been fined and even jailed.

Just five days ago, a senior citizen was jailed a day and fined RM8,000 (S$2,600) for flouting her quarantine order.

Six days ago, an Indian national with Malaysian permanent residency was jailed five months and fined RM12,000 for venturing out during his stay-home order.

He had tested negative for Covid-19 upon returning from India but a repeat test found him positive, creating the Sivagangga cluster which crossed state borders and left over 40 people infected.

In April, there was public backlash after Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali and a Perak state exco member were let off with a fine of RM1,000 each for attending a social gathering during Malaysia's partial shutdown, while a single mother was sentenced to 30 days' jail for failing to obey the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Her sentence was reduced to a RM1,000 fine on appeal, after she had spent eight days in prison.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2020, with the headline 'Anger at Malaysian minister who skipped quarantine'. Print Edition | Subscribe