COMMENT | Health Ministry makes quarantine conundrum murkier
To say that some fishy business had taken place would be an understatement. To describe the whole episode as fiction would be not that appropriate. To unambiguously state that the system has broken down may be an accurate description in yet another shameful episode involving a lawmaker.
It would be wrong to come to such conclusions blindly but if the sequence of events is studied carefully, it will reveal that something is amiss and the Health Ministry owes the people some answers to this whole reprehensible chapter.
I would not venture into describing this as a cover-up, but the following timeline may help the reader comprehend and grasp why I came to the unequivocal conclusions made in the preceding paragraphs.
July 3-7: Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali (above) and his entourage went to Turkey.
July 10: On his Facebook page, the minister said he attended a programme at Duyong Marina Resort in Terengganu on July 10.
From July 10 to July 21: Khairuddin was said to have attended a dozen programmes and meetings. He attended Parliament (July 13, 14, and 16); a programme in Jasin on July 15; the Prime Minister’s Department on July 18; Kuala Nerus (July 18), Setiu (July 18), Pantai Penarak, Terengganu (July 18) and Pulau Duyong (July 19).
Aug 18: Seputeh MP Teresa Kok told Parliament that Khairuddin had gone to Turkey on a personal trip in early July but did not undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine for those returning from overseas.
Aug 19: Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the ministry is probing allegations Khairuddin breached quarantine orders after returning from abroad.
Aug 20: Khairuddin urged all parties to wait for an official statement to be issued by the Health Ministry – no talk about compound notice or fine.
Aug 22: Health Ministry says Khairuddin was issued a compound notice on Aug 7 and that he has settled the RM1,000 fine.
The ministry’s terse statement reveals more than what it intended to convey. It omits to state why the minister had not been ordered to quarantine at home for 14 days. It also conveniently overlooks other members of his entourage who accompanied him on the trip.
Confidence in govt dented
But the biggest giveaway in this dishonourable affair is that as late as Thursday, Noor Hisham said the ministry was investigating the complaint. If the compound notice was issued on Aug 7, he would have certainly been informed and there would have been no necessity to investigate as the notice would have already been issued and the fine paid.
The commencement of the offence of not complying with the quarantine started on July 7 – the date Khairuddin returned to Malaysia. Why did it take a full month for the notice to be issued when on-the-spot compound notices are routinely issued to others?
When Kok raised the issue on Aug 18, it had been 11 days since the notice was issued. If indeed this was accurate, then Khairuddin and Health Ministry officials should have said so and the matter would have been laid to rest.
It does not take a rocket scientist to infer that this whole exercise has been undertaken to appease the public who have been accusing the authorities of double standards.
Of bigger concern to the prime minister, his cabinet and the civil service is that public confidence in the government and its systems has been severely dented.
How do they intend to extol the virtues of promoting a culture of “one rule for all” when it is more than obvious that there are occasions when the balance has been tilted in favour of selected politicians?