Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNA Identification Bill tabled despite protests - Star


The DNA Identification Bill, which is expected to face a rocky passage in the House, was finally tabled for second reading amidst accusations that the Government was pushing it forward.

This is despite various attempts by the Opposition to delay the reading or halt it altogether.

Among the Opposition MPs who had moved to block the reading were Fong Po Kuan (DAP - Batu Gajah), Lim Lip Eng (DAP - Segambut), Salahuddin Ayob (PAS - Kubang Kerian) and Mahfuz Omar (PAS - Pokok Sena).

The standoff came immediately after Wee Choo Keong (PKR - Wangsa Maju) had engaged in a 45-minute debate with Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin on the technical points of the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board Bill while Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee looked on with obvious impatience.

Fong stood up on a point of order even before Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar could present the Bill, accusing the Government of being “hasty” by pushing forward the second reading.

“Why has this Bill been put forward when the Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) was tabled first? Is there any malicious intention?” she demanded.

The Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) Bill had been tabled for first reading in the previous meeting while the DNA Identification Bill was only presented to Parliament last Monday.

As at last Thursday, the Order Paper had listed the AUKU Bill above the DNA Identification Bill in the schedule for second reading. However, the Order Paper this Monday showed that the DNA Identification Bill has now preceded the AUKU Bill.

Ronald told her that under the Standing Orders, the Government had the right to prioritise any Bill above others, prompting Fong to retort that the House should at least be told of such a move.

The Deputy Speaker then attempted to get on with the proceedings, amidst protests from Lim and Fong - who alleged there was “udang di sebalik batu” (ulterior motives).

Citing a point of order, Salahuddin then claimed the MPs had not been given time to prepare for debate on the Bill as they had previously thought to focus their “homework” on the AUKU Bill.

“The police have given a briefing to the backbenchers on the Bill but they have not invited the Opposition MPs; we are MPs as well,” Mahfuz pleaded with Ronald.

However, Ronald was firm in allowing proceedings to go on, adding that the Speaker had acceded to the Government’s request to push forward the Bill under Standing Order 15(2).

“Your preparations for debate is another matter. However, I take note of your concerns,” he said before calling on Syed Hamid.

Syed Hamid later said the bill was not intended for a particular person and there was no sinister motive behind the tabling of the bill.

At the Parliament Lobby, lawyers from Human Right Committee of Bar Council called for the Bill to be withdrawn from debate and have a proper public consultation with experts such as chemists, criminologists, lawyers and others.

Edmund Bon representing the committee, called for the setting up of a Parliamentary Select committee to research and make further amendments to the bill, add privacy rights, adopt a data protection regime and ratify the international covenant of civil and political rights.

“We are not against the setting up of a DNA data bank but it must be set up with adequate safeguards,” said Bon, who was present at a press conference after giving DAP MPs a briefing on the Bill.

Among others, Bon said there was no provision for mandatory destruction of the samples, all convicts would have their DNA profile in the data bank, the court has no role in determining whether the DNA data was true or false and the profile could be exported to other countries.

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