The Malaysian Bar has expressed concern over legal immunity granted to state agents enforcing the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 during the emergency period.
In a statement last night, Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the legal immunity stipulated in Section 10 of the new Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 granted the government and its agents immunity in situations of negligence and for medical negligence.
"The Malaysian Bar is of the view that a blanket immunity should not be extended as someone must be held accountable for mishaps that occur under the orders of the government, be it in good faith or not.
"An ouster clause does not necessarily shield the government from being sued for any breach of fundamental human rights.
"The wide-ranging powers under the ordinance sends a chilling effect to ordinary citizens since all the powers are concentrated in the executive branch," he said.
Salim said the Malaysian Bar was also "apprehensive" of granting police powers to the armed forces during the emergency period.
The Malaysian Bar is of the view that police officers are trained to handle civilians and day-to-day disputes, whereas military personnel are not.
"We are concerned about the excessive use of powers by the armed forces when carrying out their duties.
"The Malaysian Bar hopes that the fundamental rights of individuals will not be compromised during the emergency and in the course of implementing the ordinance," he said.
Salim said the Malaysian Bar was also of the opinion that Parliament should be allowed to convene to provide checks and balance on the government's function and role.
In view of the above, the Malaysian Bar also urged the government to only exercise its executive powers to the extent that is necessary to meet the needs of handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The rule of law is not some kind of receding mirage, but a fountain from which the nation draws its sustenance.
"Emergency or not, it forms the basis of a democratic system," he said.