PETALING JAYA: Umno has made it clear that it will back the amendments to the Prevention and Control of Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) despite DAP openly saying that it will not support the Bill.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said they see no reason not to support the Bill.

He said despite initial objections, several improvements had been made to Act 342 following discussions with relevant parties, including Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“Amendments were made after those discussions and the high compounds have already been reduced,” he said.

“Our calls to reduce the compounds were heard and agreed upon by the Health Ministry. I will support it in my speech when the Bill is tabled in Parliament,” said the Pontian MP.

The Bill, which includes increasing the maximum compound on individuals and corporate organisations for violating the law, was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat last December.

It was, however, postponed to the next parliamentary session that is scheduled for the end of February.

The amendments propose that the compounds be increased from RM1,000 to RM1mil for a corporate body and from RM1,000 to RM10,000 for an individual.

Talks that certain camps within Umno will not support the controversial Bill have emerged, which could cause a reduction of support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

This is after Umno announced late Wednesday night that it would have its 2021 general assembly between March 16 and 19 this year.

Meanwhile, PKR’s Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye said the guidelines and the three-tiered penalty system for Act 342 had not been addressed and discussed publicly.

“So far, there are no updates from the Ministry of Health on this. Under these circumstances, it will be hard for us to support it,” said the former deputy health minister.

Dr Lee said there were a lot of concerns over the quantum of the compound, which would be left up to discretion of the enforcement.

“We have raised this issue many times, but it has not been addressed.

“Another part of it is that doctors will need to notify the Health Ministry on suspected cases.

“How do we define the term ‘suspected’? It will put an unnecessary burden on medical practitioners, and there is no need to mandate a notification based on every suspected case.

“It will have a lot of unintended consequences. For example, if it involves other cases such as HIV, it will deter patients from taking a screening in the future,” he said.

DAP, meanwhile, said it would not support the amendments when it is tabled in the March Parliament session.

Its secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said that Pakatan Harapan had previously decided not to support Act 342 because of the “controversial” increase in fines.

It had proposed that companies defying the Covid-19 standard operating procedure be closed down instead.

“Individuals and companies have suffered enough and should not be burdened under the current economic situation with heavier fines subject to the discretion of the government,” said Lim in a statement.

As for PAS, the party had previously said its 18 lawmakers in Parliament would support Act 342.