Restaurant owner gets jail

ALOR SETAR: A nasi kandar restaurant owner has become the first person in the country to be jailed for defying a quarantine order under the recovery movement control order (MCO).

Nezar Mohamed Sabur Batca, 57, the owner of the restaurant in Napoh, Kubang Pasu, where the Sivagangga cluster broke out, was sentenced to a total of 20 months’ jail and fined a total of RM12,000 by the Jitra Magistrate’s Court after he pleaded guilty to four charges under Section 15(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

The sentences were meted out by Magistrate Mohd Hadi Hakimi Harun in proceedings that were held at the isolation ward in Block I of the old Alor Setar Hospital here, also known as Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital II yesterday.

According to the charge sheet, the accused was found present at four premises – three bank branches and the Revenue Service Centre of the Inland Revenue Board Kubang Pasu branch – between 3pm and 4.40pm on July 14.

By doing so, he had defied the Home Surveillance Order issued to him under Section 15(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, an offence under Section 22(b), which carries a punishment under Section 24(a) of the same Act, which prescribes a jail term of not more than two years or a fine or both upon conviction.

Hadi sentenced Nezar Mohamed to five months’ jail and fined him RM3,000, in default three months’ jail, for each of the four charges, and ordered the jail sentences to run concurrently from his date of conviction yesterday.

At press time yesterday, the accused had yet to pay the fine.

Some 20 journalists had gathered at an open air parking lot of the hospital as early as 8am to cover the case.

Hadi, deputy public prosecutor Zabidah Ahmad and the court interpreter were told to wear personal protective equipment clothing and other protective gear while the accused wore a face mask during the 45-minute court proceeding.

Zabidah called for the maximum sentence as a deterrent and lesson to the public not to violate orders enforced by the government.

She said non-compliance with the quarantine order had caused the outbreak of the Sivagangga cluster, which involved districts of Kubang Pasu, Padang Terap and Kulim, as well as Perlis and Penang.

“It also caused the government to suffer losses of more than RM1mil in the targeted enhanced movement control order area in the Kubang Pasu district,” Zabidah added.In mitigation, the accused, who was unrepresented, expressed his regret and apologised over the incident and pleaded for a lighter sentence.

Nezar Mohamed, identified as an index patient of the Sivagangga cluster, is a permanent resident who returned to Malaysia from Sivagangga, Tamil Nadu, India on July 13.

Upon arrival, he underwent a Covid-19 screening at KL International Airport but was initially tested negative.

He was put under a Home Surveillance Order but did not follow the rules within the quarantine period.

Repeated Covid-19 screenings on him later showed positive results and he was admitted to Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital here.

As of yesterday, close to 6,000 individuals from the Sivagangga cluster had been screened; 45 of them tested positive.

Out of the 45 cases in three states, Kedah had 31, Perlis 11 and Penang three.
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