Laws You Need to Know About MCO

The country is going into a partial lockdown under the nationwide Movement Control Order. The Federal Government has invoked the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (PCID) 1988 and the Police Act (PA) 1967.

Under Section 5 of the PCID , the police shall assist authorised officers, be it from the National Security Council or from the MoH, authorised to handle the Movement Control Order. That is where the Police Act 1967 comes into action.

According to Sections 24 and 25 of the PA the PDRM can detain and inspect aircraft and road vehicles. Remember that Malaysia is now closed off from the outside world, and incoming vehicles may be bearing infected persons. Alternatively, vehicles may be roaming around KL carrying infected persons. It is important that the PDRM is able to detain and inspect these aircraft and/or vehicles so that the Authorised Officers under the PCID Act can check and see if the passengers are infected or not.

Also, under Section 26 of the PA, the police can block roads. This may be important if they need to shut off the highways, to prevent people from leaving cities.

Then there is Section 31 of the PA, which allows the police to impose a curfew requiring people to stay indoors at certain hours, under certain restrictions. (This is not the case for now.)

Now back to the PCID Act. The government has been using the PCID for some time already, even before the Movement Control Order. Section 12 of the PCID, prohibits a person who “knows or has reason to believe” that he has an infectious disease to expose other persons to the risk of infection by his actions or mere presence. Under Section 10, any doctor who diagnoses a patient with COVID-19 has to notify the authorities, as it is a notifiable disease, that is how we get the number of new infections every day at 5pm. And of course, under Sections 14 & 15 of the PCID Act, they can order an infected person or a suspected one to be placed under isolation or observation

But most importantly is Section 31, which gives the Minister wide-sweeping powers to shut off the borders, regulate the movements of people going out, entering, or even moving within Malaysia. It is a very wide-sweeping act; powers include the ability to isolate or quarantine suspected infected people against their will, control of the ports, airports, coastal waters and borders.

Most powerful of all is Section 31. Section 31 (2) (t) gives the Minister power over “such other matters as may appear to the Minister advisable for the prevention or mitigation of infectious diseases”. This means any power not described in the PCID is also available to the Minister as long as it is for containing the disease.

Covid-19 is an infectious disease under Schedule 1 of the Act, under the definition of ‘any other life-threatening microbial infection’ in the First Schedule of the PCID

Sections 6 & 11 of the PCID allows for the declaration of an Infected Local Area These are hardcore no-go zones where the infection rate is very high. Think Sungai Nipah back in the 1990s. Under the current Movement Control Order, you can still move about and go to buy groceries; but once an area is declared an Infected Local Area, they may be completely locked down and the inhabitants forcibly taken away for treatment and isolation. No one goes in and no one leaves.

Now some of you may refer to Article 9 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the freedom of movement; or Article 10 which guarantees the freedom of assembly and association.

So you may complain that you are unable to go to certain places or form groups and gatherings. Well, we should remember that in Article 5 (1) nobody shall be deprived of their personal liberties (such as the freedom of movement/association) save in accordance with the law, laws such as the PCID Act and the Police Act.

And according to Section 24 and 25 of the PCID, for committing any offence under the PCID you may land in jail for up to 2 years (5 for a repeat offender), or to a fine or to both; and in respect of a continuing offence, to an extra fine not more than RM200 a day If an Authorized officer sees fit, an offence may be converted into a compoundable offence, with a compound not exceeding RM1000.

Chan Quin Er

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