GRS Should Stand Firm on Sabah SOP Relaxation

Chan speaking with an eateries operator this morning in Gaya Street, about their dilemma on whether to allow customer to dine in or not.

COMMENT: On 28 June, Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Hajiji Noor relaxed the Covid-19 SOPs. What struck a chord with the public the most is the dine-ins are to be allowed in restaurants and eateries under nationwide total lockdown.

Yet the next day, Hajiji had cold water poured on him by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the Federal Senior Minister of Defence. He stated that Sabah is not exempted from National Security Council’s (MKN) “central decision” on banning dine in.

It is akin to a massive slap in the face for the Sabah GRS Government as they are told to abide with MKN without any room for input. Interestingly, Ismail’s colleague in Sabah—Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin has conflicting view by supporting the relaxation of SOPs.

MKN at the highest level does not have any Sabahan member sit in the council. How could they understand and judge the ground situation and override Sabah Government’s decision?

GRS government had made a big mistake when it agreed to toe the line with Federal’s proclamation of emergency.

If there is no Emergency, the Sabah Government could have used its powers under the Public Health Ordinance to issue SOPs via a subsidiary legislation instead of being tightened by the federal directive.

The latest statistics from Department of Statistics, Malaysia (DOSM) shows Sabah’s GDP is projected to shrink as much as 10% in 2020 due to the pandemic. The key economic sectors of Sabah such as tourism and palm oil industry were suffering due to the MCO and border closure.

Clearly, Sabah has no choice but to rely on domestic economy to keep business and economy stay afloat. As forestry is one of Sabah major economic sectors, the shutting down of downstream industry such as furniture factor would severely reduce the state coffer, of which the Federal Government would certainly not reimburse.

Therefore, it’s important to get federal compromise this round.

GRS should play its card right and to convene the Sabah Legislative Assembly so that all ADUN may voice out their respective opinions. Such voices being carried by elected representatives would certainly regain our autonomy to take care our economy.

I urge Hajiji to stand firm on the relaxation of SOPs as the benefit outweighs the endless cycle of pandemic lockdown.

Should the federal-state conflict on SOPs not resolve, the eatery shop may have to face stiff fine on the inconsistent dine-in policy. The government should assist the needy, not burden them.

Whilst some people like who is part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) political coalition may wish to emphasize that “no compounds have been issued”, even he would not be able to guarantee no enforcements whatsoever, and I would advise him to use his internal channels to properly advise, and if need be, reprimand, his comrades in the federal government.

* CHAN FOONG HIN is Sabah DAP Secretary and Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu