Bar: Enact preventive ‘Covid-19 law’ before MCO ends

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has urged the government to enact a “Covid-19 law” similar to the one enacted in Singapore, saying that it must be in place before the country emerges from the movement control order (MCO).

According to the Bar, the law is needed to protect individuals, businesses and companies from the consequences of being unable to perform or fulfil their contractual obligations arising from the measures taken in relation to Covid-19 prevention.

Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the law should be introduced as soon as possible but since the Dewan Rakyat would sit only on May 18, he urged the government to extend the sitting to cater for this.

“The Dewan Negara also needs to meet in order for parliamentary business to fully take place.

“The urgent needs of the rakyat and vital interests of the nation need to be immediately deliberated on, debated and decided.

“Other legislatures elsewhere in the world have shown that, with a bit of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, parliamentary business can and does proceed with sufficient physical-distancing precautions. We must also do the same, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Salim said in Singapore, legislation was introduced in the second week of April to ensure among others, booking deposits could not be forfeited for wedding or business functions that had to be postponed, and termination of business premises leases due to non-payment of rent.

He added that in the United Kingdom, the Coronavirus Act 2020 was introduced in March to allow for regulations to be made regarding employment contracts to protect employers and employees.

Salim said measures announced by the government in relation to commercial activity, apart from ordering businesses and shops to shut or open, lack legitimacy as they were being implemented by way of administrative directives.

He said these administrative directives tend to apply only to regulated institutions such as financial institutions, government-linked corporations, government departments, and government agencies.

“These do not include the vast number and varied nature of

private business transactions, for example, supply agreements, sale and purchase agreements, the majority of employment contracts, and rental or hire agreements.

“While some contracts may have provided for exceptional circumstances, with the use of a ‘force majeure’ clause, many will have not. Even contracts with force majeure clauses may not be sufficient to avoid termination and/or penalties for non-performance.

“Legal protection from the unintended non-performance of contracts needs to be provided for specifically, and enacted by way of legislation, so as to provide comprehensive coverage, ” he said.

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