PETALING JAYA: The government’s latest move to increase the fines for those who breach the movement control order regulations will do little to stop people from committing offences, according to two experts.
Clinical psychologist Sarah Zehan of Relate Mental Health Malaysia said there was “little evidence” that harsher punishments could deter people from flouting rules. When people faced desperate situations they were more likely to “rationalise their reasons” for breaking the rules rather than thinking about the risks, she said.
“In general, people think more about their chances of getting caught rather than the punishment itself. So they are more likely to follow SOPs in situations where the likelihood of getting caught is higher, not so much because of the punishment,” she said.
Criminologist and senior lecturer Haezreena Begum of Universiti Malaya said the prospect of being slapped with a maximum fine of RM10,000 would remind people to take the matter more seriously.
However, the amount of the fine will not be an effective method of deterrence in the long run, as shown by the number of people in drugs-related activities despite the death penalty. The same concept applied to SOP compliance.
“The longer the lockdowns are dragged on, the more complacent people will get. Now with the Covid-19 vaccine available, we see people getting even more complacent because they think they will be protected from the virus,” said Haezreena.
Haezreena told FMT that a more effective way of preventing people from breaking the rules was “community policing”, where the public was responsible for reporting MCO offenders. “People will always try to find a way to circumvent the rules or police, but if their neighbour or anyone nearby could easily report them, then they would be more cautious,” she added.
However, criminologist P Sundramoorthy of Universiti Sains Malaysia said there should be zero tolerance for those who still insisted on breaking the SOP, especially after a year of living with the pandemic.
“The prior penalty of RM1,000 had no impact, so we should not hesitate to impose a more severe punishment. People must not forget the consequences of risking the health and safety of others,” said Sundramoorthy.
He also said it was important to note that people faced a fine of “up to RM10,000”, and that the penalty rates could be smaller depending on the type of offence committed.
Under the amended Emergency Ordinance, the maximum fine for MCO violations has been raised to RM10,000 for individuals and RM50,000 for companies. The new rules come into effect on March 11.