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Tough call for enforcement officers

27 Apr 2020 / 20:57 H.

THE extension of movement control order (MCO) was expected and while we are restless as to when we will be able to have our favourite teh tarik without feeling like a criminal or take a stroll in the park without the terror of being spotted by police, I suppose we should leave it to the experts to make the calculated decision. It has been a lethargic wait and many people are hoping that things will return to normalcy soon.

As we move into the fourth phase of MCO, in addition to the fear of the virus, there is another dread that is threatening our existence – the alleged indiscriminate acts by enforcement authorities in the name of MCO. We hear stories of how some civilians are being treated, despite many of them having valid reasons to be out doing various chores.

It is all about being at the wrong place and at the wrong time should you come face to face with the law.

I was told, first hand, by a shopkeeper how she was taken to task despite having shuttered at 8pm. With a “closed” sign displayed conspicuously at the entrance, the shopkeeper was at the till counting her collection for the day when she was called on by officers and fined.

Such cases make us wonder if we are living in a police state where people are at the mercy of enforcement personnel.

The talk of the town is the case of a retired civil servant who was caught allegedly for defying the MCO, despite his insistence that he was out to get his daily supplies.

His crime was that he was wearing a pair of sports shoes which was supposed to have contributed to the contingent “evidence” that he might have been out jogging.

The benefit of the doubt was not accorded to him. The retiree was charged and could not post bail in time, and he had to spend time behind bars, like a common criminal. This is a shameful incident.

In another case, a university student ended up on the wrong side of the law for leaving her house to present a home-baked cake to her boyfriend.

While this does warrant punishment, the jail and penalty imposed may be a mite too severe.

We do understand that the police are merely carrying out their duties and I have come across road blocks which are conducted in a fair manner. In the reported cases, it is possible that some personnel may have gone strictly by the book?

We were reminded time and again that no one was above the law and yet there were VIPs whose apology seemed to have worked fine with the police.

But then there are the regular VIPs and there are also the privileged VIPs. When enforcement is left to the discretion, there is bound to be abuse. Do we have a clear SOP to differentiate between blatant defaulters and those who have genuine reasons to be out?

It is not easy for the police or the civilians.

There could be an array of contingencies in a household requiring people to step out of the house but it is a matter of perception, what is important to us may not be acceptable to the officers.

Having said that, with the cases declining, the government is going in the right direction in fighting the common enemy we have in Covid-19 but the war is not won yet.

In the US, controlling people is more complex than it is here.

Angry mobs are coming out to openly protest the lockdown claiming that their right to living their lives has been infringed.

Some are even calling it a “political ploy” not knowing the gravity of the issue, which is beyond human capacity to control.

A vociferous Ohio resident, who had been consistently dishing out anti-government posts and condemning the lockdown, reportedly, died from the illness.

This goes to show Covid-19 spares no one, it does not discriminate, it does not care.

The only way to keep ourselves and our family safe and protected is by way of self-regulation. If you are wearing the mask because you do not want to be caught, you have got it all wrong!

Let’s hold on tight for a little longer!

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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