Opposition MPs cry foul over DNA Bill

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 The remaining opposition MPs left in the House accused Home Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar of sneaking in the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Identification Bill 2008 whilst the bulk of the opposition was campaigning in Permatang Pauh.

The DAP"s Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan questioned the haste with which the government was tabling the Bill for second reading.

-Why are we being asked to debate this Bill when we have not had time to read and prepare for the debate?- she asked in Dewan Rakyat today where only 10 opposition MPs were in attendance.

"I think there is an ulterior motive in speeding up the tabling of this Bill," she said, referring to the opposition's suspicion that the Bill is targeted at de facto opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial.

Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar, who is also Pas information chief, said that the opposition had not been briefed about the Bill but claimed that the government backbenchers "have been briefed by the police during a special briefing. We were not invited for this."

Pas's Kubang Kerian MP Salahuddin Ayob also claimed that since the government had tabled the Universities and Universities Colleges (Amendment) Bill 2008 at the end of the last session, the opposition had been focusing their "homework" on it and were left blindsided by the DNA Bill.

However, deputy speaker Ronald Kiandee overruled them by declaring that the government had the right to give priority to any Bill it felt was important and "they do not have to give a reason."

Syed Hamid told reporters in the Parliament lobby that there was no "sinister motive" to the timing of the Bill's debate.

"The Bill was supposed to be tabled after the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board Bill, but I was unwell so I asked for it to be moved down the order paper and be tabled later," he said after tabling the Bill for its second reading.

Syed Hamid insisted that the Bill was not aimed at any particular person.

"A person is not charged because of this act, but due to police investigations when they are satisfied there is a prima facie case and then it is up to the courts to decide. We are not going to use this to make a person chargeable, that is not the purpose of the Bill," he said, rebutting Fong's allusion to Anwar's case.

The Bill was to have been tabled during the 11th sitting of Parliament but was delayed. Apart from providing for compulsory extraction of DNA, the Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of a forensic DNA data bank and the use of forensic DNA analysis on DNA profiles.

The Bill also provides for punitive measures on those who refuse to give a "non-intimate sample" such as samples taken from a nail or under a nail, a swab from a non-private part and saliva in the form of a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.

Meanwhile, lawyers from the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council called for the Bill to be withdrawn from debate until there was proper public consultation with experts such as chemists, criminologists and lawyers.

"We are not against the setting up of a DNA data bank but it must be set up with adequate safeguards," said committee member Edward Bon, adding that a parliamentary select committee should be set up to undertake research and make further amendments to the Bill, add privacy rights, adopt a data protection regime and ratify the international covenant of civil and political rights.

The Malaysian Insider

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