[TheNutGraph.com] Unravelling the DNA bill

10 09 2008

By Khairil Anhar

IN 1985, Professor Alec Jeffreys of Britain’s Leicester University discovered the technique for Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) profiling and storing. He had no way of knowing then that his discovery would open the door to changes in criminal prosecutions, and raise the ire of human rights and privacy advocates around the world.

Malaysia is a relatively late entrant into the DNA profiling and storing scene. It took seven years before the DNA Identification Bill was finally tabled in parliament on 18 Aug 2008, stirring up a variety of responses in the Dewan.

In fact, opposition leader and Parti Keadilan Rakyat advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim led opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) on a dramatic walkout during the second reading of the DNA Bill on 27 Aug.

Anwar has alleged that the legislation that would force suspected criminals to give DNA samples was targeted at him. He had previously refused to provide a DNA sample to facilitate investigations into a sodomy charge he is currently facing; but if the Bill becomes law, such defiance would be punishable by a RM10,000 fine or maximum one year in jail.

Anwar’s trial starts on 10 Sept.

The Bill also came under immense fire from lawyers, criminology and forensic experts, human rights activists, lawmakers and even the average rakyat.

The government was forced to defend its move to table the Bill, and Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar came out strongly to deny allegations that the Bill was rushed through to target Anwar, or that it was severely flawed.

He has, however, agreed to hear the various views on the Bill, though he reiterated in a report in The Star on 8 Sept that he doesn’t think there are loopholes in it.

So why is the DNA Bill so divisive? Why is the government so intent on pushing it through, while so many seem so dead set against it?

The answers lie in certain clauses in the Bill, as well as the things that are missing from it. And to understand this, it is necessary to see how such bills are handled in other countries.

Fingerprints? How vintage!

In the early 1980s, the United States enacted laws that required offenders convicted of sexual offenses and other violent crimes to provide DNA samples.

But it was only in the 90s that legislative guidelines for the setting up of a central DNA database called the Combined DNA Index System (Codis) and profiling procedures were put into place.

To read full article, please visit: http://thenutgraph.com/articles/top_features/2008/09/unravelling-the-dna-bill.php




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