Bar: Channel funds for DNA bank to crime prevention
• Akta DNA: Majlis Peguam sedia bantu
• Bar Council to hold public forum on DNA Bill
The Bar Council will hold a public forum on 13 October 2008, featuring an array of speakers who will present their viewpoints on various aspects of the DNA Identification Bill 2008. The forum will also provide an opportunity for members of the public to pose questions to the speakers.
The DNA Identification Bill 2008 was tabled in Parliament in August and hailed
as a beneficial and necessary tool to fight crime more effectively. The Bill
contains provisions to compel DNA testing, establish a national DNA databank and
regulate the use of DNA profiles. Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar
reportedly told Parliament that DNA profiling is “completely transparent and
scientific”, can only “tell the truth” and will thus not result in any wrongful
However, the Bill has drawn vocal criticism, including concerns that it does not contain adequate legal safeguards, would place excessive powers in the hands of the police and the relevant Minister, generally assumes that DNA profiling is a precise and infallible science, and has not undergone a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders.
One aspect of the Bill that has come under particular attack is the conclusive evidence clause, which provides that DNA evidence would be conclusive proof. As a result, the accused cannot challenge the veracity and authenticity of DNA samples by presenting other forms of evidence.
Critics also say that the Bill is problematic because it permits DNA samples to be taken from too wide a range of persons, and would punish those who refuse to provide DNA samples. Coupled with the lack of a Data Protection Act in Malaysia, there are grave concerns that the Bill would result in infringements on privacy rights.
The Bar Council is of the view that we have to consider whether such a Bill is needed at this time, taking into consideration the high cost of maintaining a DNA databank. The limited use of DNA in solving and prosecuting crimes may not justify the high cost of maintaining the databank.
The government should provide the public with facts and figures, based on comprehensive studies, to justify the need for a DNA databank and to indicate what level of additional crimes will be solved as a result of this Bill.
We urge the government to use the monies that would be allocated for the DNA databank to focus instead on crime prevention. Concrete measures that could be taken include increasing police personnel for street patrols, setting up more police beats, improving training facilities, upgrading the equipment and support systems at all police stations, and improving the salary structure for police personnel.
Speakers at the public forum will include:
1. Dr. Koh Chong Lek, Fellow, Academy of Sciences Malaysia, and Head, DNA Centre @ NIE, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
2. Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj (medical doctor and PSM Member of Parliament for Sg. Siput)
3. Tommy Thomas (legal practitioner)
4. Dato' V. Sithambaram (legal practitioner)
5. A speaker from the Forensics Division of the Royal Malaysian Police (to be confirmed)
The press quoted the Home Minister as saying that concerns
about the Bill should be voiced before the Bill is tabled at the committee stage
in December. The Bar Council will take the views and feedback from the public
forum into consideration in formulating its input to the Government.
The forum will be held at 5.00 pm on Monday, 13 October, in the Bar Council Auditorium, located at 13, 15 & 17 Leboh Pasar Besar, 50050 Kuala Lumpur. The forum is open to the public, and admission is free. To register to attend, please call 03–2031 3003 and speak to Lojini (ext. 136), Vino (ext. 127) or Oy Sim (ext. 134).
6 October 2008