Pressure mounts on Malaysian minister who flouted virus quarantine


The minister in charge of Malaysia’s lucrative palm oil sector has come under fire in the country’s parliament for breaking novel coronavirus quarantine rules.

Though Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohamad Khairuddin Aman Razali paid a 1,000-ringgit (240-dollar) fine in August for violating stay-home requirements after returning to Malaysia from an official visit to Turkey, lawmakers believe the minister was let off lightly.

Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said on Monday that it was “unfair” that “a minister gets to walk free easily” while others face court.
A restaurant owner was jailed in August for five months for quarantine breaches that led, health officials said, to around 40 people being infected with the novel coronavirus.

Around 23,000 people were arrested for alleged violations during Malaysia’s anti-coronavirus lockdown, which ran from March 18 to May 4.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Monday that 512 people were arrested the previous day for violations of the remaining curbs, such as visiting illicitly reopened pubs and nightclubs.

Police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said on Sunday that Khairuddin, who is in charge of the world’s second-biggest palm oil sector, will be investigated for his quarantine breach.

Malaysia and Indonesia together produce around 85 per cent of the world’s palm oil, a widely used ingredient in snacks, cosmetics, fuels and animal feed.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Health has reported more than 9,200 cases of novel coronavirus infection and 125 related deaths.

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