Coronavirus pandemic

Malaysian deputy minister fined for breaching movement curbs

Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali (right) and Perak state Cabinet member Razman Zakaria had visited an infected area for social purposes on April 18, an activity banned by the movement control order.
Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali (right) and Perak state Cabinet member Razman Zakaria had visited an infected area for social purposes on April 18, an activity banned by the movement control order.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak state Cabinet member Razman Zakaria were each fined RM1,000 (S$325) yesterday in default of one month's jail for violating the government's movement restrictions.

They were charged with 13 others by a magistrate's court in Gerik, Perak, after photos of them enjoying a meal at an Islamic religious school in Lenggong on April 18 were uploaded on social media.

The 15 had visited an infected area for social purposes, reported The Star daily, an activity banned by the movement control order (MCO).

Photos of them enjoying the meal were uploaded onto Mr Noor Azmi's Facebook page, but were later deleted after attracting heavy criticism. Netizens accused the Perikatan Nasional government of double standards, noting that thousands of ordinary Malaysians have been fined and arrested for violating the MCO.

Mr Noor Azmi apologised for breaking the law. "The matter is over now. I will try not to repeat this mistake again and be more careful in the future," he told reporters outside the courtroom yesterday.

"I would like to humbly offer my sincere apologies and thank those who have supported me."

The government has been accused of dragging its feet when VVIPs are involved.

The number of ordinary Malaysians arrested for breaking the MCO is almost four times the 5,851 confirmed Covid-19 cases. As a result of the arrests, prison academies had to be converted to accommodate the sudden surge in detainees.

Mr Noor Azmi isn't alone in being called out for breaching the MCO.

 
 
 

Deputy Rural Development Minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad allegedly held a birthday gathering at his house earlier this month, with photos of the event going viral on social media.

Tensions were stoked further last week after Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's daughter Nurul Hidayah posted photos on her Instagram account that showed her husband and her calling on a minister and a deputy minister in Putrajaya. There were also photos of the couple going grocery shopping.

Under the MCO, only one person is allowed in a vehicle, and only one representative from each family is allowed to shop for groceries.

She was later questioned by police after having challenged people online to lodge a report against her for what she had done.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government yesterday said industries that were allowed to work at half capacity during the movement restrictions would from today be allowed to ramp up to full capacity. But they were reminded to still abide by anti-virus guidelines such as maintaining social distancing.

The permission to ramp up capacity came on the same day that the Health Ministry's secretary-general, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said the country is in a "recovery phase" of the coronavirus pandemic.

 
 
 

He reported 31 new infections yesterday, the lowest since March 12 as patients who recovered from the virus in Malaysia continued to rise.

Sectors allowed to operate at half capacity during the MCO included the machinery and aerospace industries, as well as the export-oriented automotive industry, along with hardware, electrical and electronics shops.

As part of the more relaxed rules on industries, the government has allowed Malaysia's biggest mega project, the RM44 billion East Coast Rail Link, to restart.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2020, with the headline 'Malaysian deputy minister fined for breaching movement curbs'. Print Edition | Subscribe