KUCHING: The potential amendment to the penalty for drug trafficking offences has been met with expressions of agreement and support.
Earlier, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the mandatory death penalty imposed for drug trafficking might be revised to a life sentence, and the government would review laws related to the distribution and abuse of drugs, as some felt that the penalty was too harsh.
Sarawak Community Policing Association (SCPA) chairman Datuk Dr John Lau Pang Heng pointed out that there was no evidence that the death penalty was more effective than a prison term at deterring drug-related crimes, or any other crime.
He said that under international law the death penalty could only be used for the “most serious crimes” such as murder. Drug-related crimes fall short of this threshold according to the United Nation.
Lau felt that those committed to life imprisonment for drug offences should be required to go through a rehabilitation and corrective programme, which would enable inmates to renew their lives and prepare for a better one once the programmes were over.
“Rehabilitation is the key due to the person’s mindset having been changed previously from being sober-minded to being a full-blown addict.
“It involves psycho-education, individual counselling, psychiatric assistance, and psychologist sessions,” he said, adding that family session also formed part of rehabilitation programmes.
He explained that this facilitated the process of unlearning the addictive behaviour and relearning sobriety-based qualities.
Lau pointed out that activities such as yoga, meditation, ‘tai chi’, relaxation therapy, and creative art therapy had proven successful for drug inmates in USA and Europe.
“The task of combating drug issues requires the cooperation of all government agencies, non-governmental organisations, corporate bodies, and the general public,” he said, adding that drugs were the nation’s prime enemy.
Meanwhile, Social Welfare Council of Sarawak (SWCS) vice president Chi Poh Yung said that instead of considering what penalty was best suited to an offence, it would be better to look into the rationale behind certain offences so that pre-emptive measures could be taken.
“By imposing another type of sentence, this may give the wrong message to concerned parties while the root cause remains unaddressed,” he said.
Drawing from his years of experience in providing consultation to many from various walks of life, he said that a lack of purpose and the inability of elders in guiding their juniors in pursuing their future was one of the main causes that such offences kept increasing.
University student Lorna Phang, 27, was of the view that amending the death penalty to a life sentence was a step forward in humanity and law.
“I see this as a leap forward for Malaysia! I think many would agree with me when I say that the death penalty is draconian,” she said.
She said that Malaysia should model its laws on those of developed countries that have abolished the death penalty, and the nation should learn for them how to develop laws that embody human rights.
Administrative officer Nicholas Jeffery, 38, also felt that the potential penalty review was a step in the right direction.
However, he did not think that changing it to a life sentence would deter drug trafficking, explaining that humans were greedy and the disadvantaged would always be tempted.
“As it is now, even with the death penalty, we still have locals and foreigners caught and given the death penalty for trafficking drugs and yet the crimes still happen.
“What will help to deter this is the government taking a more emphatic approach to improving the economy and quality of life of the citizens,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.
He said that people would not traffic drugs if they had a decent and respectable quality of life.