Malaysia's deputy health minister fined RM1,000 for breaching coronavirus restriction rules

Deputy minister Noor Azmi Ghazali (centre) having a meal at an Islamic school in Perak on April 18. PHOTO: GANGUTARA/TWITTER

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak executive council member Razman Zakaria were fined RM1,000 ($325) each on Tuesday (April 28) in default of one month's jail for violating the Movement Control Order (MCO).

They were charged with 13 others by the Magistrate 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.

Prior to the meal, the Deputy Health Minister and Razman visited the Lenggong Health Clinic to check the Hulu Perak district health office's preparations to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

Photos of them enjoying the meal were uploaded onto Noor Azmi's Facebook page.

But they were later deleted after attracting heavy criticism from netizens who accused the Perikatan Nasional government of double standards, noting that thousands of ordinary Malaysians have been fined and arrested for not abiding by the MCO.

The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia member later 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," Noor Azmi told reporters outside the courtroom on Tuesday. "I would like to humbly offer my sincere apologies and thank those who have supported me.

"I will obey the law and the jurisdiction of this country. I will perform better to provide only the best health for Malaysians," he said.

Only four members of the media were allowed to enter the courtroom as a result of social distancing rules. Since the MCO kicked in on March 18, over 20,000 people have been arrested for breaching the order.

But the government has been accused of dragging its feet when VVIPs were involved.

The number arrested is almost four times that of confirmed Covid-19 cases, which was more than 5,700 as of Monday. As a result of the arrests, prison academies had to be converted to accommodate the sudden surge in detainees.

Noor Azmi is not the only politician to be 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 allegedly posted photos on her Instagram account which showed her husband and her calling on the Minister for Islamic Affairs Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad at his office in Putrajaya.

There were also photos of the couple going grocery shopping.

Under the MCO, only one person is allowed in a car, 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.

Meanwhile, opposition MP Fuziah Salleh is due to be charged in the Johor Baru Sessions Court on Wednesday for allegedly spreading fake news.

The Kuantan MP is said to have posted on Facebook chaotic scenes of Malaysians purportedly returning home at the Sultan Iskandar CIQ Complex after the MCO was imposed.

In a separate incident, Terengganu state police chief Roslee Chik said on Tuesday that Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and 14 others will not be charged for breaching the order.

Photos of Ahmad Samsuri and Terengganu Umno Liaison Committee chairman Ahmad Said standing side-by-side at Mr Ahmad Said's home on April 17, together with several volunteers, had circulated online. All 15 were said to have been discussing and working on aid distribution at the time.

Datuk Roslee said the Attorney General's Chambers decided no charges will be brought against them.

Separately, police said opposition MP Charles Santiago, who is being probed for an alleged MCO breach on April 26, was actually distributing aid to some 300 people gathered at a public hall in Klang.

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