KOTA KINABALU: Sabah police will come down hard on those who fail to observe Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP), with no further leeway given on humanitarian grounds.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali issued the warning over a viral video showing eight villagers in a van from the state's interior Tenom district being issued a RM1,000 compound each for failing to observe SOP.
The group, which included some elderly villagers, was taken to Tenom district police headquarters, about 200km from here.
The villagers claimed that they were heading into Tenom town to buy essentials, including medicine, when they were stopped by the police on Jan 27.
In the video uploaded by streaming channel KDM TV, the villagers said they had no choice but to make the trip, and some said they could not afford the fine.
They hoped their Melalap assemblyman Datuk Peter Anthony would help them pay the fines.
The villagers cited ignorance of the SOP and movement controls as they did not have televisions.
"The video seems to be a provocation. We have been using our discretion since the movement controls came into place last year.
"If we did not use discretion, we would have issued many more summonses," Comm Hazani told reporters here on Tuesday (Feb 2) in response to the video.
"We understand the people's plight and have used discretion in issuing compounds to offenders," he said, adding that many have now taken advantage of the leeway given by the police enforcing SOP in the state.
He said the van driver was ferrying more than half the vehicle's 13-seater capacity while the passengers were also found to be breaching restrictions.
Comm Hazani said he had ordered all district police chiefs and frontliners in the state to strictly enforce SOP under the MCO and take appropriate action against those wilfully flouting the rules.
He said "pirate" van and taxi operators could also face further action under Section 33 of the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board Act for using private vehicles for public transport.
Offenders face a RM5,000 fine or a year's jail or both if convicted.
Comm Hazani also said police would consider investigating offenders under Section 269 of the Penal Code for those who negligently commit any action they know is likely to spread the infection of a dangerous disease.
They face a fine or up to six months' jail or both upon conviction.