Doctors across various major hospitals in Malaysia donned black and held up placards in protest against job insecurities and unfair treatment stemming from the existing contract employment system.
The doctors, mainly juniors on contract, staged a walkout this morning as part of the #HartalDoktorKontrak protest, which roughly means contract doctors on strike, but not without police intimidation. Several photos and videos posted online showed police officers trying to disperse crowds as doctors demanded fair career pathways and improved workplace benefits.
Dangi Wangi police confirmed that they were investigating doctors who participated in the walkout at Kuala Lumpur Hospital for allegedly breaching COVID-19 protocols.
“No one is allowed to gather or take part in any assembly at any place for any reason – be it religious, social, sports, wedding, or cultural reasons – without permission from the health director-general,” Dang Wangi police chief Mohamad Zainal Abdullah said. “This is stipulated in Rule 10 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Regulations 2021.”
— Ravin Palanisamy (@RavinP_69) July 26, 2021
Doctors who participated included those from Sungai Buloh Hospital, the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, and Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban. Many of them were seen holding placards that said: “We are your future specialist” and “Saya doktor kontrak” (I am a contract doctor) while in front of media scrums.
Outside the Sungai Buloh Hospital, a man who identified himself as a Special Branch officer was seen questioning media personnel and asking about the placards being carried by medical officers. Two groups of doctors had staged a walkout there. Two doctors from the first group were filmed attempting to answer questions from the media before someone appearing to be a plainclothes officer shouted at them, scaring them away. The doctors looked shaken and fled the scene without speaking to the press.
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The second group of doctors came out about half an hour later. One of them managed to speak to the press before he was interrupted by the same alleged plainclothes officer, who was later joined by a colleague. That colleague held a camera to the doctor’s face and said: “We are going to compound all of them.”
A police patrol vehicle arrived at a bus stop near the Sungai Buloh Hospital, blasting its siren at doctors and media personnel gathered outside, telling the protesters to stop gathering or risk being fined.
More than 50 junior medical officers staged a walkout at Kuala Lumpur Hospital but found themselves being confronted by police officers from Dang Wangi. Lawyers were also at the scene and ready to represent the doctors.
Police appeared less harsh towards medical officers on strike at the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital in Seremban. Authorities gave the doctors 10 minutes to perform their walkout before they were ordered to disperse.
Doctors at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang COVID-19 center canceled their walkout after being threatened by police, although some did manage to hold up their placards briefly in public. A screenshot of a text message shared by the HartalDoktorKontrak Twitter page showed that they were allegedly threatened with police arrest.
The Hartal Doktor Kontrak group said on Saturday that the strike would proceed despite Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s offer to extend their contract employment by two years and pay for their studies as well as study leave. The group denounced the offer as a half-baked solution to the years-long problem.