Drug Dependants Bill Referral To Parliament Committees Welcomed — Drug Policy Program Malaysia

Experts in Drug Policy Program Malaysia have commended the home minister for referring the drug dependants bill to parliamentary select committees, calling for utilisation of the National Task Force on Drug Decriminalization to also revise the DDA.

The group of experts in the Drug Policy Program Malaysia, under the leadership of Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, would like to congratulate Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution, for his courageous decision in referring the amendments to the Drug Dependents (Treatment and Rehabilitation) (Amendment) Bill 2024 to the Parliamentary Special Committees on Health and Security.

We extend our gratitude to Members of Parliament from both sides of the aisle for earnestly considering the concerns of relevant stakeholders, including experts in drug policy and individuals with lived experiences.

Their dedication has facilitated an informed parliamentary debate and a positive outcome to further deliberate on the nuances of the proposed law changes.

We commend the minister and MPs for advancing a supportive and health-focused approach to addressing drug addiction, advocating for a shift away from punitive measures against drug users.

The outcome of the parliamentary debate favouring future decriminalisation policies is particularly laudable, and we stand ready to assist the government in designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating these initiatives.

Drug use is a multifaceted issue impacting all levels of society. Malaysia has grappled with this challenge since its inception, with our initial drug law, the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) 1952, reflecting colonial-era policies.

The criminalisation of drug users has led to significant negative consequences, including incarceration, overcrowded prisons, disease transmission, economic loss, stigma, discrimination, and substantial costs to both the government and the population.

It is imperative that all drug-related laws are revisited and updated based on current scientific knowledge and evidence.

Addressing such a complex issue necessitates collaboration among stakeholders, including the Home Ministry, the National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK), the Ministry of Health (MOH), health care professionals, civil society, academics, and individuals with lived experiences.

We urge the government, including the Home Ministry and the MOH, to utilise the newly formed National Task Force on Drug Decriminalization and concurrently revise major acts such as the DDA 1952 and Registration of Criminals and Undesirable Persons Act 1969, to ensure a comprehensive decriminalisation policy for Malaysia.

In this regard, the Drug Policy Program and its board of advisors offer our expertise to assist the government in formulating these legislative revisions.

We call for meaningful consultation on laws, expanding treatment options, piloting new legislation, developing standard operating procedures, and public education.

Furthermore, we propose collaborating with the government to study successful decriminalisation policies implemented in other countries and adapting them to the Malaysian context.

Lastly, we recommend convening a National Drug Summit in 2025 to elevate discussions on this critical issue.

In conclusion, we once again congratulate the minister, government officials, and all MPs for their inclusive deliberations.

We eagerly anticipate collaborating with AADK and the National Task Force on Drug Decriminalization led by the deputy health minister to comprehensively review and revise all drug-related laws, fostering a Malaysia where drug and addiction issues are addressed through principles of health and societal wellbeing.

This statement is supported by the following experts:

  • Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Chairman, Malaysian AIDS Foundation, President and Pro Vice Chancellor, Monash University, and Commissioner for the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the Global Commission on Inequality, AIDS and Pandemics
  • Palani Narayanan, Director, Drug Policy Program and Malaysian AIDS Foundation and Senior Manager, Health and Human Rights, SKPA2/Health Equity Matters
  • Dr Raja Iskandar Shah Raja Azwa, President, Malaysian AIDS Council, Associate Professor of Infectious Disease, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya
  • Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil, Psychistrist and Addiction Specialist, Advisor to Universiti Malaya Centre for Addiction Science Studies (UMCAS)
  • Dr Rushidi Ramly, Public Health Consultant Physician, Former Head of Substance Abuse and Addiction, Ministry of Health and Former Deputy Director-General of AADK, Former State Director of Health, Malacca
  • Sangeet Deo Kaur, Lawyer, Karpal Singh & Co
  • Izhar Abu Talib, Board Member and Trustee, Yayasan Ihtimam Malaysia (JAKIM), Mantan TKP, AADK (2013 to 2019)
  • Samantha Chong, Drug Policy Reform Advocate
  • Hafizi Harun, President, PENGASIH Malaysia
  • Dr Salmah Noordin, Consultant, Family Medicine Association Malaysia
  • Prof Dr Vicknasingam Kasinather, Centre for Drug Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Expert Advisory Committee for Drug Dependence, World Health Organization (WHO), and Scientific Advisory Committee, World Drug Report, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  • Dr Nurafiqah Mohd Salleh, Exco, Malaysian AIDS Council, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Universiti Malaya
  • Assoc Prof Dr Rusdi Abduk Rashid, Consultant Psychiatrist, Head of Universiti Malaya Centre for Addiction Sciences (UMCAS)
  • Dr Al Zilal Abdul Wahid, Psychiatrist and Addiction Specialist
  • Dr Sangeeth Kaur Dhaliwal, Co-Chair, Expert Advisory Group on Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation in East and Southeast Asia, UNODC
  • Assoc Prof Dr Anne Yee, Secretary, AMAM (Addiction Medicine Association Malaysia) and Addiction Psychiatrist, Monash University Malaysia
  • Prof Dr Sivakumar Thuraisingam, Professor, Monash University Malaysia.
  • Abdul Rashid Ismail, Past President, National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (HAKAM), Lawyer, Messrs Rashid Zulkifli
  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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