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By Siti Baaqiah Mamat
KUALA LUMPUR Bernama) – Does Malaysia have adequate laws to curb as well as eradicate syndicates that forge the COVID-19 vaccination certificate?
Lawyers interviewed by Bernama are concerned that existing laws may not have the teeth to put a stop to this unethical practice.
The fake vaccination certificate racket came to light last week when police arrested a doctor at a private clinic in Marang, Terengganu, for allegedly selling fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates.
According to media reports, the suspect started selling the fake certificates in September last year and has issued more than 1,900 of them. The suspect, who charged between RM400 and RM600 for each certificate, has been remanded to assist in further investigations under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
Lawyer Muhammad Akram Abdul Aziz said since this is the first time a forgery of this nature has occurred in Malaysia, “we don’t have a specific law to control the issuance of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate”.
As such, the suspect concerned will be investigated under Section 420 of the Penal Code (Act 574) for committing fraud. Under this section, the penalty is a maximum jail term of 10 months with whipping and fine but lawyers are questioning if it would have any deterrent effect.
“At this point, the existing legal provisions’ ability to curb such forgery (COVID-19 certificate) has yet to be proven as such an offence involving the vaccine has not occurred or specifically monitored previously.
“So in the current situation, I’m of the view that although existing laws can be applied, they are neither extensive nor capable of regulating COVID-19-related offences, one of which is faking the vaccination certificate,” he told Bernama.
Asked if action can be taken against the recipients of the fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates, Muhammad Akram replied in the affirmative, saying that they can be charged under Section 420 or Section 465 of the Penal Code.
“Section 420 pertains to fraud and Section 465 forgery but, however, the elements that need to be proven under both sections may not be the same as the elements that need to be proven if there is a specific law or legal provision to deal with COVID-19-related offences.
“I feel the time has come to review the existing laws or draft or enforce a specific law to deal with issues involving COVID-19,” he added.
Muhammad Akram said the government could, for instance, enhance the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) by adding a clause pertaining to the forging of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate.
“The government must look into this (forging of the certificate) seriously because it involves the health of the public… the syndicates are exposing the public to the pandemic’s danger,” he said.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment lecturer Associate Prof Dr Sawal Hamid Md Ali suggested that the government streamline vaccination information by including it in the databases of the Immigration Department and National Registration Department.
Such a measure, he said, will enable the vaccination data to be shared through the same databases, which will put a stop to passengers leaving the country using fake vaccination certificates.
“The verification of the vaccination certificate (at least through the QR code) must be done at important places such as the Immigration Department because merely showing the certificate (on the mobile phone) is not enough… it has to be verified by a digital system,” he said.
A more effective way, he added, is to connect the verification system to the vaccine recipients’ database.
“This can help in the monitoring process in certain places as the vaccination status would be easily visible to the authorities,” he said.
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia Syariah and Law Faculty lecturer Associate Prof Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow, meanwhile, said employers can do their part by identifying employees suspected of forging their COVID-19 vaccination certificate and issuing them a warning letter or terminating their employment if they do not repent.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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