Coronavirus: Malaysia's deputy minister gets flak for group lunch during movement curbs

Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali photographs on his Facebook showing his visit to an Islamic school in Perak. PHOTO: GANGUTARA/TWITTER

IPOH - A Malaysian deputy minister who was pictured eating with a group of about 15 people without observing social distancing has received flak after his social media posts were widely shared, local media reported on Saturday (April 18).

Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali on Friday (April 17) posted a series of photographs on his Facebook showing his visit to an Islamic school in Lenggong, Perak.

He was shown handing out gifts to several people with a Perak state minister in tow, and later sat down on the floor to eat.

The posts raised questions from the public whether the deputy minister and Perak politician had broken the government's stay-at-home order and on social distancing.

The posts have since been deleted from Dr Noor's Facebook page, but screenshots of the pictures have been shared across social media.

Asked about the issue, Malaysia's de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers are not immune under the law if they deliberately flout the movement control order (MCO).

Datuk Takiyuddin, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said it was up to the authorities to take appropriate action if it was true that there were gatherings held involving senior officials.

"It is up to the authorities to take action if the MCO was deliberately flouted and they clearly defied the standard operation procedure," he said, as quoted by Bernama news agency.

But he explained that senior officials meet people everyday on issues linked to Covid-19.

" After the meetings, some need further checks including visits and surveys. For example, a minister's visit involves a briefing on the views which must be sought," Mr Takiyuddin said.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and former menteri besar Ahmad Said have also courted public brickbats after the duo met for lunch on Friday, Malaysiakini online news reported, at a time when police have been arresting and jailing people for breaking the MCO.

And in another VIP allegedly violating the MCO, Deputy Rural Development Minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad was pictured in a Facebook post enjoying lunch with a group of Umno members during the MCO period.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday assailed them in a video: "It seems some of those holding government position are deemed 'more special' than others when they violate the MCO. The government should set a good example.

"They should follow the rules they themselves made, but it looks like they think they are 'more special'. In Malaysia, we follow the rule of law.

"The laws do not discriminate. The rules made (for MCO) were based on the laws and must be applied to all."

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