Prosecution for ‘Obstruction’ Counterproductive

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is concerned with the prosecution of individuals for alleged obstruction of public servants during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Social distancing is crucial to ensure that the spread of Covid-19 is curbed and restricted. There should be no doubt as to the severity of the Covid-19 threat to the wellbeing of Malaysia and must be the country’s top priority until the virus is eradicated. However, the threat to public health must not supersede and undo all common sense in law enforcement in Malaysia.

The announcement of the MCO by the government was inconsistent and chaotic throughout the first few days of its implementation and caused confusion among members of the public. With the uncertainty and repeated ‘u-turn’ policy by the government, it is unsurprising that the severity of the MCO and Covid-19 is not well understood or accepted by some segment of the society.

Public violation of the MCO will continue until the public fully understands the reason and purpose for the restriction. Prosecution of individuals for ‘obstruction’ would not solve the problem and would only lead to further confusion and unnecessary fear of authorities at a time of crisis. Precious resources and police capacity are also wasted and diverted to remanding and holding these individuals when it could be better utilized to strengthen public outreach.

Furthermore, we must not discount the possibility that some individuals violate the MCO believing that their actions are fundamental and crucial for their day-to-day survival. If so, steps must be taken to address these immediate and critical concerns as opposed to punishing those who fail to comply with the SUARAM calls on the government to cease prosecution for ‘obstruction’ and divert critical resources to public education and awareness.

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