BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penang police have apologised for the incident where some 200 foreigners congregated to perform prayers outside a surau in Taman Pelangi here on Hari Raya Aidiladha morning.
Its chief Comm Datuk Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain, who expressed regret over the incident, said a probe would be initiated to check on the effectiveness of enforcement.
“As police chief of the state, I apologise to all Penangites for failing to detect the incident early.
“There are 180 mosques and 57 surau. We monitor 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 police’s effectiveness in enforcing the SOP in Penang,” he told a press conference at the central Seberang Prai district headquarters here yesterday.
Comm Mohd Shuhaily said that although the group had practised physical distancing, police would be tracking 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, and Section 270 of the Penal Code for spreading harmful infection.
He said the group had turned up at the surau but after being denied entry as the limit of people had reached 100 as stipulated by law, they proceeded to perform their prayers on a road outside.
“Before the prayers started, the congregation was already outside the surau and told to disperse. Gates to the surau were also locked to prevent more people from entering,” said Comm Mohd Shuhaily.
“As it respected the sensitivity of those wanting to perform their prayers and the series of incidents occurring spontaneously, the surau did not order those outside to return home or inform the police,” he added.
Comm Mohd Shuhaily said there were about 200 people who congregated on the street from about 8.30am to 9am and all of them were foreigners.
“No action will be taken against the surau as it complied with the SOP,” he added.
He also said the neighbourhood comprises about 8,000 people living in 23 blocks of flats, of whom about 70% were 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.
Comm Mohd Shuhaily said those who wished to report SOP violations could contact the police directly at 04-222 1722.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry assured the public that firm action would be taken against any individual found to have organised the congregation.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the Immigration Department had been ordered to act.
“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 urges the public to not issue any statement that touches on religious sensitivity and racism that can cause public unrest,” he said in a statement yesterday.