Penang police chief apologises over incident where hundreds allegedly performed prayers outside Juru surau

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penang police expressed regret over the incident where around 200 foreigners allegedly performed prayers outside a surau in Taman Pelangi on Tuesday morning (July 20).

Penang police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain (pic) apologised to all Penangites for failing to detect this incident early.

"There are 180 mosques and 57 suraus.

"We monitored almost all of them and there was a possibility that the SOP monitoring team had moved to another location when the congregation occurred.

"We will study the effectiveness of police in enforcing SOP in Penang," he said, referring to a separate probe that will be initiated to check on the effectiveness of enforcement.

Comm Shuhaily said those who wish to report on SOP violations can contact the police directly at 04-222 1722.

He said the group had allegedly gone to the surau for prayers on the morning of Hari Raya Haji but they were denied entry as the limit of 100 people was reached.

They then allegedly proceeded to perform their prayers on a road in front of the surau, which is near the Taman Pelangi flats in Auto City, Juru.

"The surau management had asked them to disperse and locked the gate to prevent further entry.

"As the surau respected the sensitivity of those who wanted to perform prayers and the incident happened spontaneously, it did not inform the police about the numbers outside,” Comm Shuhaily said.

He said despite the group practising physical distancing, police will still track them down to facilitate investigation under Section 269 of the Penal Code for a negligent act that could spread an infectious disease as well as movement without permission, Section 270 of the Penal Code for spreading harmful infection and the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) (Measures in Communicable Areas) Regulations 2020.

He said no action would be taken against the surau operator as he had complied with SOP.

Explaining further, Comm Shuhaily said the neighbourhood comprised about 8,000 people living in 23 blocks of flats of which about 70% of them are foreigners working in nearby factories.

The area is just 2.5km away from the Taman Nagasari neighbourhood which was placed under a 14-day enhanced movement control order that ended on July 17.

Meanwhile, the Home Ministry assured that firm action without compromise will be taken against any individuals found to be organising the congregation.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the Immigration Department has been ordered to take action.

"Do not be hesitant to take deportation action under the Immigration Act 1958/63 if it involves foreigners.

"While investigations are ongoing, the Home Ministry urged the public to not issue any statement that touches on religious sensitivity and racism that can cause public unrest," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

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