KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) has urged authorities to exercise a proportionate approach to all movement control order (MCO) cases.
Its president Roger Chin said in doing so, there should be a move away from an approach that focuses on punishment.
He said it is due to the unprecedented environment that the community finds itself under the MCO, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The police, as one of the frontliners together with those working in the public health field, have an extremely important role in ensuring compliance with the MCO, ” he said.
“It is necessary to strike a balance between reprimanding those who willfully flout the MCO, and those that are having difficulty adapting to this new but restrictive landscape and lifestyle, ” Chin said.
For instance, he said, in the absence of clear and express guidelines, it would be more appropriate for the authorities to issue a warning and guide to those who are exercising or playing a particular sport in their own private compound, rather than arrest and charge them.
He said there must be reasonableness and a genuine attempt to secure compliance as well as taking into account the type and gravity of the offences under the MCO when deciding on the need to take matters further in law enforcement.
“For those that are justifiably arrested and charged, the SLS would advocate for either binding over, fines or community service being imposed rather than passing sentences that are custodial in nature, ” Chin said.
“Incarceration may only serve to exacerbate the contagion of Covid-19 in confined areas such as lockups, prisons and detention centres, ” he added.
He said whilst no preparation to overcome the Covid-19 virus can be perfect and complete, effective communication, understanding and compliance of the law and regulations must be adhered to.
“Similarly, we must avoid draconian, overly bureaucratic or authoritarian approaches to the management and enforcement of the MCO, ” Chin said.
He said ultimately, flexibility is crucial as the relevant authorities will have to make many difficult decisions as they attempt to provide the best service they can in a challenging environment.
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