KUALA LUMPUR: With a simple voice vote in the Dewan Rakyat, a Bill to temporarily suspend non-performance of contractual obligations in several sectors due to effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was passed.
It will be known as The Temporary Measures For Reducing The Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Bill 2020.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the passing of the Bill was “not too late”, as claimed by several Opposition lawmakers.
He said the government had taken time to draft the Bill as it had to engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure comprehensive temporary protection measures for those affected by the pandemic.
Several Opposition lawmakers had questioned why the government did not table the Bill in April during the beginning stages of the movement control order, unlike countries such as Singapore which had passed similar relief laws.
“We needed time to draft the Bill. I will not say that it is better late than never as the government had started drafting the Bill since April.
“If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Although Singapore had passed its law in April, they carried out several amendments to further fine-tune their Act, ” he said in his ministerial reply on the Bill.
He emphasised that the government had already taken prior steps to ease the impact of the pandemic, especially on the economic front.
Takiyuddin pointed out that 58 regulations had been amended, of which 24 were related directly to the economy.
“The government is willing to make further amendments to the law if needed, ” he said.
The Bill, which is retrospective, modifies 16 legislation.
Among others, it will prevent developers from imposing late payment charges on unpaid property instalments by purchasers should they have defaulted payments from March 18 to Aug 31 this year.
Developers must also exclude March 18 to Aug 31 from the calculation of the defect liability period and the period for developers to carry out works to repair or make good of other defects in houses which have been purchased.
Also no warrant of distress can be taken against tenants who have been in arrears of rent between March 18 and Aug 31.
Owners of goods will not be able to repossess goods under a hire-purchase agreement as noted in Section 16 of the Hire Purchase Act 1967 for any default instalment.
However, this is only for the period from April 1 to Sept 30 this year.
Earlier when tabling the Bill for second reading, Takiyuddin said a special Covid-19 Mediation Centre would be set up to help resolve disputes.
“For this purpose, the government has agreed to set aside not less than RM29mil to provide mediation services through the Covid-19 Mediation Centre to the public and companies affected by the pandemic, ” he said.
He said the government would bear the cost of mediation if done through the centre for a period of one year between Oct 1 and Sept 30 next year.
However, only those qualified can seek mediation through the centre.
Those eligible include individuals from the B40 and M40 categories, as well as micro and small-scale enterprises.
Also eligible are manufacturers with annual sales of between RM300,000 and RM15mil, or those with five to 75 full-time employees.
Also qualifying for the mediation services at the centre are those from the service and other sectors with annual sales of between RM300,000 and RM3mil, or have five to 30 full-time employees.
Takiyuddin said expert mediators would be appointed to assist in resolving disputes at mediation centre.
“If parties are able to resolve their dispute in an amicable manner, they will have to sign an agreement, ” he said.–The Star