RM10,000 is not fine

It is a huge burden for many ordinary people who are struggling during the movement control order period

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Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) urges the government to consider revising the RM10,000 fine limit or to specify the types of severity of violation under the movement control order.

The severity of such offences should proportionately correspond to the amount of the fine.

In criminal law, the principle of proportional justice is used to convey the idea that the harshness of the punishment should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence or the severity of the crime itself. Given that the movement control order is an order derived in accordance with the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the coronavirus pandemic is still a serious public health threat, we can understand that violation of certain standard operating procedures should result in a reasonable amount of penalty.

In this regard, we do not ask the authorities to waive all kinds of compounds and penalties for violators of the standard operating procedure, but RM10,000 as the default fine amount – raised from the previous RM1,000 and implemented since 11 March – seems to be out of proportion.

For example, the authorities should justify whether the kind of risk or severity of damage likely to be caused just by not wearing a mask in public places or failure to register for the MySejahtera check-in at the premise is commensurate with a RM10,000 fine. Whereas for the worst first category traffic offence such as speeding, exceeding 40km/h of the limit, the compound is only RM300 maximum.

In 2017, a Bank Negara Malaysia survey revealed a shocking finding that three out of four Malaysians could not even raise RM1,000 of immediate cash money for emergencies. The median salary or wage of employees in Malaysia was RM2,308 in 2018.

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Hence, a RM10,000 fine looks hugely out of proportion to the severity of violation that may be committed. Therefore, this is not fine, but a huge burden for many ordinary people who are already financially struggling during the movement control order period.

Although the authorities claim that there would be a mechanism of discretion to lower the fine amount, there is no guarantee.

We propose that the government should first stratify the fine amount reasonably and clearly according to the severity of the movement control order violation. Only then can the appeal process to lower the compound amount on a case-by-case basis be justified.

Otherwise, with the default RM10,000 fine, this could easily breed corruption among certain officers who might extort a higher bribe amount due to the recent hike.

We could agree that certain groups of offenders such as venue operators, event organisers or employers who put many at risk may have to bear a higher quantum of fine, as they can be differentiated from other individual violators. Also, for repeat offenders, it may even be justifiable to raise the fine amount or jail term.

We wish the government would reconsider its decision. To many, even a RM1,000 fine is already harsh and deterrent enough, why the need for a RM10,000 fine, which is not fine?

Badlishah Sham Baharin is chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia. This piece was issued on behalf of the GBM executive council

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