Support Police and Armed Forces Role in Fighting Covid-19
THE Movement Control Order (MCO) has been implemented in Malaysia to curb the Covid-19 outbreak since March 18.
Despite the devastating spread of the communicable disease, not everyone agrees that what the government is doing is right.
Some have painted it as a national emergency, a starting point for the negative premise of emergency law’s imposition which is synonymous with military rule.
First though, Covid-19 is a global crisis that threatens public health and safety, constituting the term of “disaster” under Article 4, Malaysian National Security Council Directive 20. There were more than 1,000 cases and it claimed the lives of more than 10 people in less than two months.
The pandemic has hastened the urgency to adopt vigorous responses but the government did not undertake aggressive options like declaring a state of emergency. MCO represents a strategy rooted in public health principle and law that emphasises the protection of the community’s health and wellbeing.
The government’s actions are based on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020 under the
auspices of Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.
The Malaysian armed forces participation nationwide, starting from March 22, 2020, is to play a contributory role in national intervention in tackling Covid-19.
By virtue of Section 5 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, the Health Ministry, as the main authority in charge, can call forth aid from any agency to enforce the said law and regulations.
The Federal Constitution and Armed Forces Act 1972 designate the military with responsibilities of maintaining law, order and public safety. Military branches may hence be called upon to handle domestic disasters including riots, floods and episodic pollution.
In similar vein, a whole spectrum of military resources comprising logistics, infrastructure, medics, transportation, intelligence and communications could be mobilised to support the Health Ministry in responding to Covid-19 developments.
Notably, the military has limited powers during such a period. It is tasked to merely help the Health Ministry.
To add, unless a “safety emergency” proclamation is issued by Yang Di-Pertuan Agong in congruity to Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, the military does not gain actual powers to take over the country’s administration and to impose military rule.
Further, unless “disaster emergency” or “a security area” is declared by the prime minister, based on Section 18 of the National Security Council Act 2016 and Article 25 of the Malaysia National Security Council Directive 20, the military is not empowered to arrest, seize and search.
Overall, Malaysians should avoid any prejudice about the MCO. Enhance our support to the “dark blue” and “green” forces. They are not about stripping our rights to due process but they serve as a catalyst for the country’s fight against Covid-19.
DR YUSRAMIZZA MD ISA @ YUSUFF
Deputy Legal Adviser and Senior Law Lecturer University Utara Malaysia
Credits to NST – Opinion