A viral post by SJ Echo Facebook page claims that 'unfair' standard operating procedures (SOPs) may force a famous chicken rice seller in USJ 4, Subang Jaya, to close his stall after the man was slapped with a hefty fined of RM3,000 for travelling from home to work and back
In the Facebook post, that was uploaded on Friday, 16 October, SJ Echo said that the small business owner was travelling in his car with his two sisters and one nephew, all of whom work with him at the stall.
The owner, Seow Boon Keong, told SJ Echo that his three occupants were slapped with RM1,000 compound each 4pm on 14 October when they were on the way home after business hours at USJ4.
"We travel from Jenjarom daily to USJ 4 to operate our chicken rice stall. It's 30km one way from Jenjarom. Because of the distance and also because the other three cannot drive, we travel in the same car," he said.
"All we do as a routine is [to] head to work from Jenjarom in the morning and go home by around 3.30pm when we finish work. We don't go anywhere else," SJ Echo reported the man as saying.
On the day of the incident, Seow and his three family members, who were heading home from work, were stopped along the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) by a policeman near the USJ toll plaza
He then slapped him with RM1,000 compounds each for his passengers despite having produced letters confirming that they work and run the chicken rice stall in USJ 4.
"The two-passengers a vehicle SOP is not fair for people like us who run a business," Seow said, adding that he may have to close shop every time such a guideline/SOP was imposed under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
And closing shop would result in him losing his only source of income for the family.
How are we expected to earn a living during these hard times?
"Because of the distance from Jenjarom to USJ 4, it would cost RM40 one way for two persons to travel that distance by Grab," he said, adding that they do not go anywhere else except home to work and back.
What's the guideline about travelling during CMCO?
Netizens have since decried the CMCO guidelines that, they say, don't make sense when it comes to family members travelling together
"If I have a family of five under a roof, I need three cars instead of one to travel to one destination. Then, in a restaurant, I need to sit in separate tables," a Facebook user commented, adding that "the government is increasing our expenses during these difficult times when many have lost their jobs".
While another remarked that the current CMCO is "creating a lot of confusion amongst the general public due to the various types of SOPs interpretation by the relevant authorities".
"Maybe Ismail Sabri can give an answer, four persons in a family cannot sit in one car but can dine together in the same table. Really confusing," said another user, remarking on the updated SOP about dine-in.
Several others echoed similar sentiments with regards to how it doesn't make sense not to allow more than two people who stay under the same roof to travel together for work.
Some also noted how the policeman should have practised common sense.
"Discretions are given to the police to either issue or not the compounds. Somehow, this policeman decided to issue anyways which is not wrong by law but is seen as not compassionate and heartless. They are travelling to/fro work. Not to the malls. More discretion should be exercised," remarked a Twitter user.
Others alleged that while everyday Malaysians keep getting fined for the smallest of things amidst the pandemic, no actions are taken against the politicians who don't abide by the same SOPs.
The latest allegations follow a similar incident that happened in August when thousands of netizens had accused the authorities of selective enforcement and only going after the people who cannot fight because they are helpless while not touching those in power who are openly flouting the rule.
The public outcry, meanwhile, has reached Subang Member of Parliament (MP) Wong Chen, who said there are grounds for appeal and that Seow and his family can contact his office for assistance
The Subang MP listed down the grounds under which they can file the appeal.
"First is the fact that all three passengers are a family and living together, therefore being in the car together does not increase the risk of spreading the pandemic. Second, they were not on a joyride but on their way to work, which is not a prohibited activity under the CMCO," he wrote on his official Facebook page.
"Based on these two mitigating points the police should consider dropping the total of RM3,000 of compounds and just issue a warning," he said, adding, "it's also wrong for the government to implement strict enforcement when it is also equally guilty of constantly updating and changing the CMCO SOPs".
According to Chen, the government should encourage enforcement authorities to issue more warnings instead of compounds during the first week of the CMCO so that the public has an adjustment period.
"This particular case also highlights the need to tweak the CMCO two passenger rule, to provide exemptions for family members travelling for work purposes. The economy is not doing well, therefore the CMCO SOPs should not add on further challenges to the overall sluggish economic activities," he said.
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