Rehab, not jail, for addicts
A humane solution to a human problem
Laws. Every country has them. Every country needs them.
But it isn’t uncommon that laws that are enacted are not the best. More often than not, laws are amended for various reasons, including because they are lacking in deterrent sentencing, or even because they are inhumane or outdated.
Hell, even that supposedly shining example of law, the American Constitution, has been amended 27 times, the first 10 of which were in 1791, just two years after it came into force. So yeah, there is practically no law in the world that can be said to be the “be all and end all” of its kind. Sooner or later, there will be a time when a law needs to be changed.
So it is that we often see amendments to laws here, including one which will see the Drug Dependents (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983 amended. In fact, a new act altogether will be put in its place. The new Drugs and Substance Abuse Act will see addicts being placed in rehab centres under the National Anti-Drug Agency (NADA) instead of having to go to jail, and will go some way towards reducing overcrowding in prisons.
This is significant as, according to UN statistics as of December last year, there were 74,000 people incarcerated in Malaysian jails. With a total capacity of 52,000 people, that means that our prison population was at 142.3%.
Now take that stat and compare it this report that in 2017, 33,500 of the 59,600 – or 56.21% – of people in jail then were behind bars for drug-related offences. Assuming the December 2019 stats had the same percentage of drug offenders, that would work out to more than 41,500 convicts.
We don’t know just how many of these were incarcerated for addiction-related offences as opposed to other drug sentences, but amending this law would certainly see a significant reduction in our prison population.
But this amendment does more than just reduce prison overcrowding. When a person is sent to prison simply because he or she has an addiction problem, these people emerge with the stigma of being a ‘jailbird’ and often see the doors of society shut to them, which often leaves them with no opportunities for upward mobility and forces them to turn to lives of crime, perpetuating their cycle of hopelessness.
As such, this amendment is a significant development towards a more humane approach to drug addiction. There are lots of international studies and data on the different successful approaches to the problem.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime advocates for treatment instead of incarceration and various organisations – such as the Foundation Recovery Network – say rehab instead of imprisonment could save a country billions.
And there’s more. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse says those who undergo legally-mandated rehab tend to keep their appointments more frequently than those who do it voluntarily. And, those who have extended treatment for addiction stop abusing substances in time, stop breaking the law and start to become fully integrated and helpful members of society.
So yeah, we can’t agree more with the government’s move to send drug addicts for rehab instead of prison. There are just too many benefits in doing so for it to be ignored.
While that’s one amendment for the future, one major amendment did get passed yesterday in the Dewan Rakyat. This particular amendment was to increase the bankruptcy threshold in the Insolvency Act from RM50,000 to RM100,000.
In tabling the bill for the amendment, de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said the update to the Act was in line with the development and advancement of international laws on insolvency, corporate governance and best practices in insolvency. It is also to prepare the country to face any outbreak in the future or any disaster, in fact, that may cause economic crisis.
All that may be true, but what’s also true is that by the old threshold, a great many people who’ve been hit financially by Covid-19 would be declared bankrupt – so this is a change whose time has certainly come.
Old money man vs new money man
Our graft busters are gonna have a busy, busy time from now.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigators will be investigating each and every one of those 101 direct negotiation deals Moneybags Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz revealed had been done during the less than two years Pakatan Harapan had been in power.
The MACC will ask for the details of the deals from the Perikatan gomen so these can be investigated after receiving memorandums on the contracts from several non-governmental organisations. MACC reports have also been lodged against the then Rich Uncle Pennybags Minister Lim Guan Eng by political parties Parti Cinta Malaysia and Barisan Nasional, via its Youth wing.
Saudara Lim, meanwhile, has challenged Tengku Zafrul to make public the list of 101 contracts, totalling RM6.61 billion, saying that if the figure was true, it would only make up 1.4% of total government spending under the Pakatan government. He also compared the direct nego deals to those under the previous BN gomen, saying that between 2013 and 2018, our BN masters had accumulated RM139.3 billion in such contracts for just 12 projects.
OK, so we’ll give the man formerly known derisively as Tokong some props, cos we too want to see this list of projects made public so we can judge for ourselves. But comparing what Pakatan did and what BN did is – and we’ve used this word many times before to describe statements from both the Perikatan and Pakatan halves of our supposedly august house – disingenuous.
Yes, BN racked up way more in fewer projects. But, the fact remains that these direct nego deals did go through, despite one of the election promises in Pakatan’s Buku Harapan stating that open and transparent processes would be employed in awarding gomen contracts. We pointed this out in yesterday’s newsletter and we are pointing it out again today. It’s the principle, not the quantum.
Anyway, Guan Eng’s call for a public reveal of the list of projects received support from PM4/7 Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said this would ensure the “principle of transparency is practiced”. Funny, ain’t it, that Maddey is talking about transparency? What happened to transparency when the contracts were handed out without tenders being called?
Meanwhile, Umno supreme council member Razlan Rafii (who, now?) has called for all 101 contracts to be cancelled. He says the government “must be brave” to take such action if it wishes to avoid public perception that Perikatan is colluding with Pakatan to unevenly distribute the country’s wealth.
OK bro. First of all, we don’t think people will think Perikatan and Pakatan are colluding on anything. Secondly, as we’ve stated before, direct nego deals aren’t necessarily bad, though they can lead to issues such as fraud and corruption.
So, instead of taking blanket action, perhaps we can leave MACC to investigate the deals and hope they can work freely and fairly to see if there had been any hanky-panky behind the scenes? Don’t blow your load too early, okay?
A number of restrictions under the recovery phase of the MCO were loosened yesterday.
The most interesting of these is that foreigners will now be allowed to pray at mosques beginning Sept 1. Of course, this is provided they adhere to physical distancing measures and other SOPs set by the Health Ministry.
We’re super happy for our Muslim brethren, but there’s no word about other houses of worship. Aren’t the SOPs/guidelines the same at mosques and suraus as temples and churches? Wouldn’t it make sense to have measures taken for all places of worship, no matter the religion, in one go?
Whatever it is, this is a major decision considering that, according to the International Labour Organization, we have up to 3.26 million migrant workers here. That’s cos the Immigration Department says we have 1.98 million “regular” migrant workers (documented ones, lah) while a World Bank report claims we have between 2.96 and 3.26 million foreign workers, including “irregular” (undocumented) migrant workers. And that’s not even counting foreigners with permanent resident status.
The majority of these migrant workers, it must be pointed out, come from Muslim countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh, so this easing of restrictions will be a welcome move. The rest, or at least the more religious among them, will be hoping the move will be extended to other places of worship sooner rather than later.
Now, considering that Aug 31 is the last day of the RMCO, does the fact that My-Wife-Picked-My-Colourful-Shirts Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that restrictions on foreigners attending congregational prayers at mosques (and not other places of worship) will be eased from Sept 1 mean there will be an extension to the movement control order?
PM Muhyiddin Yassin is only expected to make an announcement on whether the RMCO will be extended sometime this week, but it does appear to be that it will be extended. It’s either that or we will have a new name for it. Perhaps it will be called the post-recovery MCO. Who knows?
Malaysians, apparently, believe that the RMCO will be extended and are resigned to the fact. But, employers and retail associations say while the move may be necessary, any extension must come with extra stimulus measures.
Anyway, other restrictions being eased include: non-citizen spouses and children of Malaysians will now be allowed to enter the country; Malaysian oil and gas workers will now no longer be required to undergo mandatory quarantine when signing off from offshore oil platforms, though foreigners will still have to do this (we don’t quite get this – is there a special strain of Covid on oil rigs that locals are immune to?); and, primary school students can wear face shields instead of face masks.
Of course, there were other Covid-related bits of news that came out yesterday, so here are some of them for your perusal:
- Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali has been summoned to Bukit Aman for questioning today over his breach of mandatory quarantine regulations. He was recently fined for flouting the regulations but is still facing police investigation, with Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri saying the rakyat should just leave it to the coppers to investigate first. Forgive our cynicism, but let’s see if anything comes out of this.
- The Health Ministry is proposing that fines for breaching Covid-19 regulations be increased from RM1,000 to RM10,000.
- Given the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several countries, Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the ministry believes our country’s borders need to be tightened further.
- The targeted enhanced MCO measures in certain areas of Kedah and Perlis has been ended as there are no new positive cases, with authorities having screened all residents there.
- There were 11 new Covid-19 cases reported yesterday, five of whom are students of one school, linked to the Tawar cluster. The school has since been closed.
- The ceiling price for face masks, currently set at RM1 a piece, will be brought down further within the next two months.
Politics and what not
With the state elections looming, Sabah has become a hotbed of politics.
So it is that PM Moo, the supreme and glorious grand wizard (for now, at least) of Perikatan, is expected to officially launch the coalition in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday. Perikatan will make up six component parties, four of whom have been named (Bersatu, PAS, MIC and local Sabah party STAR).
Umno, of course, has said it would not formally join Perikatan but will continue to support it. So, Perikatan candidates will use the coalition’s logo while the Umno-led coalition of BN will use its own logo.
There are a few questions which need to be raised, however. Perikatan has officially applied to the Registrar of Societies to be formalised as a coalition, but there has been no word as to whether the application has been approved.
It’s only a matter of time, however, before it’s approved, but if it isn’t by the time the state elections, set for Sept 26, roll around, will Perikatan candidates be allowed to use its logo?
In the 2018 general elections, Pakatan Harapan had yet to be registered as a coalition, so its candidates used the PKR logo. So how then for Perikatan? Will their candidates have to use their own respective parties’ logos and use the Perikatan logo merely for campaigns and, basically, window dressing?
We wonder also, where this leaves MIC. MIC is a member party of both Perikatan and BN, after all. If Perikatan has yet to be formalised, will they then use the BN logo, or perhaps go it on their own by using their own logo? It’s probably moot, however, considering there is only a small minority of Indians in Sabah anyway.
Side note: MIC finally came up with their ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse to explain why they were the only BN component party to register with Perikatan. And get this – apparently, it’s coz they got confused! We’d call this the height of dumbassery, but that would be an insult to dumbasses.
Anyhoo, here are a number of other news reports that we thought we would include here for you here:
- Umno’s supreme council is refusing to allow Perikatan “partner” Bersatu to contest seats in the next general election which are currently occupied by former members of the former who defected to the latter after winning them in the last general election. Did we expect anything less?
- Despite officially having been accepted into Bersatu, former PKR MPs led by Azmin Ali have yet to be told whether or not they will be allowed to defend their seats in the next election. Poor widdle babies, kan?
- The Home Ministry will set up a task force to investigate all the wrongdoings in its agencies that had been highlighted by the 2019 Auditor General’s Report. Yeah, right!
- The prosecution in former PM Najib Razak’s 1MDB final report tampering trial may have suffered a setback yesterday when former National Audit Department director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir yesterday agreed with the defence that, while four controversial issues had been dropped from the final report, this was done with justification and that other red flags were left in the report.
- In another trial, the court was told that former DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had approved the use of cheques from a charitable foundation to be used to pay off his personal credit card bills but had stopped doing so when the MACC began investigations into the matter. So, steal from the poor to give to the rich?
“You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.”
- James R. Sherman -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Another round of nationwide protests has broken out in the US after another black man was shot by police. Jacob Blake is now paralysed after being shot in the back in front of his children in Wisconsin while leaving after what his attorney claims was an attempt to break up a fight between two women. The governor of Wisconsin has declared a state of emergency after clashes between protestors and police in Kenosha, where the shooting took place.
- Former World Bank governor Robert Zoellick says the relationship between the US and China is now at a “quite dangerous” point.
- The World Health Organization says statistics show the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths is slowing in most regions.
- Meanwhile, the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, says he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently in self isolation.
- Legendary Barcelona stalwart Lionel Messi has reportedly handed in a transfer request, activating a clause in his contract which allows him to leave for free with immediate effect. This comes just over a week after the Catalan side’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League just over a week ago.