The KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) Women Division welcomes the statement by Federal Court Chief Justice Tengku Maimun directing all courts in Malaysia to take into consideration the capacity & condition of existing prisons besides adhering to the laws when passing down sentences on cases in connection with violation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) to avoid overcrowding the prisons resulting in cross infections, thereby aggravating the pandemic situation in our country.

Based on available reports as at 2.4.2020, the Women Division of KLSCAH note that out of 4189 arrest made by the police, 1449 persons have been charged for violation of the MCO for failing to stay at home. These offenders covering all stratal of the society, including medical practitioner, college students, migrant workers and others. They were arrested, detained in lock-ups, then handcuffed and produced in courts; their treatment was in stark contrast with that of politicians and senior Government officials who were charged for squandering massive sums of money.

While the Women Division of KLSCAH concurs with the objective of the MCO which acts as a deterrent to the public not to venture outside their residence to prevent escalation of the pandemic, it should be recognised that majority the violators were cooperative and had pleaded guilty thereby saving precious time and resources for the police and the courts. However, it is noted with regret that the deputy public prosecutors have instead pressed for deterrence sentence while the magistrates also had imposed stiff penalties including custodial sentence. Many of these violators ended up in prisons as they were jobless and had no money to pay the hefty fines. The Women Division is concerned that keeping these people in lockups and prisons not only aggravated the burden of the prison authorities, it also causes hardship on the violators and their families beside enhanced physical contacts between healthy persons and probable COVID 19 carriers, contrary to the very intend and purpose of the MCO.

Under such premise and in the spirit of “equality before the law” under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, the Women Division of KLSCAH urge the Government to adopt the following measures when dealing with cases involving violations of the MCO:-

1. First offenders who had been cooperative should not be handcuffed;
2. The police should adhere to MCO’s principle to maintain social distancing and avoid herding the accused in big number and close proximity when producing them in courts;
3. The Attorney General (AG) is urge to defer all cases in connection with MCO violations until after the COVID 19 pandemic;
4. The public prosecutor should be more lenient with first-time offenders and those who had pleaded guilty; and
6. The AG chamber must investigate and prosecute those who take laws into their own hands by punishing the offenders as they deemed fit.

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