Public took advantage of leeway given, Sabah cops say after backlash for fining Tenom villagers RM8,000

Julia Chan
·2-min read
Police man a roadblock along the Tun Dr Lim Choong Eu Highway in Penang January 13, 2021. Sabah police said today that they will take a tougher stance on those who do not comply with the MCO SOPs. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Police man a roadblock along the Tun Dr Lim Choong Eu Highway in Penang January 13, 2021. Sabah police said today that they will take a tougher stance on those who do not comply with the MCO SOPs. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 2 — Sabah police said today that they will take a tougher stance on those who do not comply with the movement control order (MCO) standard operating procedures, including rural villagers who have a hard time complying.

Following the backlash for fining a group of villagers who were on the way to buy essential items amid the lockdown, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali accused the public of taking advantage of police giving them leeway in the past week.

“We understand the people’s plight and have used discretion in issuing fines to offenders,” he said.

He was asked to comment on the recent controversial incident when police fined a group of villagers RM1,000 each for failing to observe public transport capacity ruling.

In the video circulating on social media, the public have shown their sympathy with some eight villagers from a rural area in the interior Tenom district who were travelling in a pirate taxi van that is running at more than 50 per cent its capacity.

The villagers said that they were heading into Tenom town to buy essential items including medication when they were stopped by police who issued a summons on January 27.

In the video, the villagers claimed that they had to make the trip to town to buy food and medicine and claimed that SOPs were not clear and they did not have information about the SOP.

The group, including senior citizens, were taken to the Tenom district police headquarters. They said they did not have the means to pay the fines and hoped their assemblyman would help them.

The fine amounting RM8,000 in total has since been paid by Pensiangan MP Peter Anthony.

Hazani said that the police have been patient with villagers for months and had exercised discretion with the fines.

“The video seems to be a provocation. We have been using our discretion since the movement controls have come into place since last year. If we did not use discretion, we would have issued so many more summons,” he said.

He said the van driver was ferrying more than the 50 per cent limit of his 13-seater capacity of the van while the passengers were also found to be breaching restrictions of the movement control order.

Hazani said that all district police chiefs and frontliners in the state were ordered to strictly enforce the SOPs under the MCO and take appropriate action against those wilfully flouting the movement control orders.

He said illegal van and taxi operators could also face further action under Section 33 of the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board Act for using a private vehicle as public transport.

* Editor's note: A previous version of this article contained an error which has since been rectified.

Related Articles Virus pushes Santander into massive annual loss Terengganu announces one-off incentives to tourism industry players Starved of work, filmmakers tell Putrajaya ‘hunger will kill us before the coronavirus’