Justice restored; 9 yoga ladies fined for flouting CMCO SOPs did nothing wrong, fines cancelled

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 – It was justice restored for 9 yoga practitioners when they heard good news that the compounds issued to them for allegedly violating the conditional movement control order (CMCO) had been cancelled after investigation showed that they did nothing wrong.

All the compounds had been cancelled, and they each bear a “DIBATALKAN” stamp. A government source told NMT that the compounds had been cancelled after investigation showed that there was no breach of SOP at the venue.

One of the cancelled compounds sighted by NMT

It was when an ordeal turned nightmare on November 10, when they were raided by policemen while doing a yoga practice at a house in Desa Sri Hartamas after a neighbour reported them to the police.

They were then brought to Hartamas police station for compound issuance in accordance with Regulation 11 (1) of the Infectious Disease Prevention (Measures within Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020.

A British national was reported to be one of the 9 ladies. She was brought to IPD Brickfields as foreign nationals can’t be fined without first being charged in court, but NMT has received confirmation that she will not be charged.

No one will be charged

It was also reported that the organiser and caretaker of the house was detained and investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for preventing civil servants from carrying out their duties. If convicted, she could face imprisonment of up to two years, a RM10,000 fine, or both.

However, the government source told NMT that the organiser did not commit anything wrong and therefore will not be charged under Section 186 of the Penal Code. 

NMT’s investigation showed that the person is not the caretaker of the house, but only a guest yoga instructor. The caretaker of the house was not present at the time of the raid.

Neighbour saw no wrongdoing

A neighbour who asked not to be named told NMT that she witnessed the instructor opening the gate of the house to allow the police to enter the promise.

“I saw a silver Proton parked right in front of the house, 3 men came out of the car, 2 wearing dark blue uniform and another wearing civilian attire.

“If it was me, I wouldn’t have opened the gate. The police didn’t come with a patrol car, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart from civilian Proton cars… and we read about criminals wearing government uniforms and robbing houses every now and then.

“And here we had a similar situation where an all-female yoga practitioners were just being careful of a group of all-male police trio. The yoga instructor told the police that she’s not the owner of the house, so she needed to call and ask permission from the owner before opening the gate.

“Nevertheless, after only about 10 or 15 minutes, the yoga teacher opened the gate for the police to enter the house once a female police officer arrived,” said the neighbor.

“But the police didn’t enter the house. They only stood outside and to my surprise, they brought their black truck to the house and it looked like they wanted to arrest everyone without even entering the house and checking if they did anything wrong” the neighbour told NMT further.

Waste of resources to raid peaceful practice

NMT learnt that this was not the first time the authorities had visited the house upon complain from a neighbor. 

“Both DBKL and police had visited the house many times before; at least 4-5 times. Every time they visited, they left without taking any action because no wrongdoings were found. That’s why I was surprised why this time they arrested and compounded the yoga ladies,” the neighbor said.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the yoga ladies to be harassed by the authorities just because one of my nosy neighbors complained so many times. It is such a waste of public resources for the authorities to raid on good people,” the neighbor said further.

Prominent group, G25 Malaysia had previously issued statements questioning the enforcement officers have been arresting the violators of the MCO and placing them under custody as if the offence is an arrestable offence. 

A prominent lawyer, Datuk Seri Rajan Navaratnam who acted for some of the yoga ladies on a pro bono basis also agrees with G25. 

“My clients have every right to question why they were detained and investigated when they followed all SOPS.

“Under the Criminal Procedure Code (the CPC) a violation of the MCO is a “non-seizable offence”, meaning that it is not an arrestable offence,” Rajan said.

Raid caused fear and confusion

The news of the raid had invoked fear to local yoga practitioners with some of them questioning the government on why yoga practitioners get arrested despite following the CMCO SOPs whereas the public are free to eat out at restaurants without strict limitation on number of patrons anymore. 

“Why are the public allowed to have weddings, eat out at restaurants as if there’s no COVID19 outbreak but peaceful yoga practitioners are getting arrested?” said an owner of a yoga center.

“Compared to weddings and restaurants, yoga classes are limited to a very small number of people in a class even though our centers have good air ventilation and can accommodate many people with proper physical distancing. I think it’s a little unfair,” he said further.

NMT