State governments may face lawsuits if they stop firms from operating

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 – State governments may face legal action from various parties particularly industry players if they stop companies from resuming their operations from May 4, 2020, says Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

The Senior Minister of International Trade and Industry said the government views seriously the position taken by the various state governments in refusing to execute the decision to restart the economy.

“Their actions are not founded on lawful authority and are contrary to the policy of the Federal Government, all the more so in view of the fact that the Federal Government’s policy has already been made into law and enforceable throughout the country,” he said in a statement today.

The regulations made under Act 342 are specific laws for the purpose of preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. It prevails over the provisions of other written laws in respect of the prevention and control of infectious diseases.

Decision to reopen economy was taken with utmost care

Azmin also said that the decision to reopen the economic sectors under the terms of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) was taken with utmost care, caution and responsibility supported by data and findings by the Ministry of Finance, MITI, Bank Negara Malaysia and Khazanah Nasional Berhad.

Furthermore he explained that the findings were presented for discussion with the Mentris Besar and the Chief Ministers at the meeting of the National Security Council on 28 April 2020.

“Based on the discussions during the meeting, the State Governments realised that should the MCO continue until June 2020, the cumulative loss of the national income is estimated to reach RM146 billion or a shortfall of 10.3 per cent of the GDP.

“This would wipe out the economic success that has been achieved for the last four years.

Meeting agreed to reopen the economy

Azmin said that the meeting agreed to reopen the economic sectors during the CMCO beginning 4 May 2020. In order to ensure effective implementation of this decision, the Federal Government will provide a set of comprehensive and stringent Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for use by all parties and these SOPs will be provided to the State Governments.

He clarified that the SOPs have already been given to all State Governments on 2 May 2020, that is, before the date of the enforcement of CMCO.

Stating that the allegation about Government restarting the economy hastily as false and baseless, Azmin explained that the Government had undertaken incremental measures to open up the economy from March 18 to April 28 through the MCO Stages 1 to 3, mandating compliance with health requirements.

“These careful and prudent actions have yielded good results particularly in terms of the increase in the opening of the economic sectors without jeopardising the Government’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID19.” he said.

The implementation of the MCO in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 [Act 342] to ensure the effective control of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such implementation involves the entire country, including the states in Peninsular Malaysia as well as the Federal Territories, Sarawak and Sabah.

“This decision takes into account the importance and imperatives of the health and well-being of the rakyat and the need to regenerate the economy.”

Decisions based on WHO criteria

Azmin reiterated that the Government makes decisions to restart the economy based on the benchmarks of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which outlines six main criteria: safety control, movement control, capacity of the health system, protection of high-risk groups, new normal practices and community-based preventive measures.

“The Government’s initiative to address the COVID-19 pandemic is recognised as one of the best in the world.

“Our national health system has the capacity and capabilities to undertake efforts to protect the health of the rakyat and to curb the spread of COVID19.” he said.