PETALING JAYA: A government gazette allowing Cabinet ministers to have only a three-day observation upon their return from official business overseas is discriminatory and unconstitutional, according to lawyers.
“The gazette violates Article 8 of the Federal Constitution as all persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection,” lawyer Jadadish Chandra said.
He said the Covid-19 virus did not discriminate between ministers and ordinary people.
Jadadish was responding to an order signed by health minister Dr Adham Baba that says ministers who return from any official visit abroad are now required to undergo observation for only three days or undergo surveillance until they can be discharged without danger to the public.
Ordinary Malaysians have to undergo a compulsory 10-day quarantine.
The new rule is contained in a ministerial order which will be in force from today until Aug 1. It was published in the Government Gazette yesterday under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.
The order exempts ministers returning from abroad from being subject to surveillance or observation orders issued by health officials under Section 15 of the Act, and instead imposes the three-day observation rule.
It comes six months after controversy arose when it was revealed that plantation industries and commodities minister Khairuddin Aman Razali did not undergo a mandatory 14-day home quarantine as required at the time.
The quarantine period was shortened to 10 days last month.
Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar al-Mahdzar said the order was irrational, disproportionate and tainted with bias because Adham was favouring his Cabinet colleagues.
“The order can be challenged by way of declaration as it is illegal,” he said, adding that Adham should withdraw it before it caused further embarrassment to the government.
Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said Adham’s decision smacked of double standards because he appeared to be safeguarding the interests of a select few.
“He cannot give preferential treatment to himself and his Cabinet by way of an order,” he said.