THE debate in the Dewan Rakyat on whether ketum leaves should be classified as a dangerous drug received a lively round of input from Barisan Nasional and Opposition MPs.
Two MPs from both sides even found themselves in agreement about raising awareness of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2014, which, if passed, would make it illegal to consume the leaves.
When Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) pointed out that some villagers might be ignorant of changes to the law, Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli (PAS-Kuala Krai) suggested that more time should be given to disseminate information about the Bill.
“That is a good suggestion,” Bung Mokhtar said. “A time frame of three to six months should be given so that the people, especially rural folk, understand that it is a drug.”
He went on to tout the alleged benefits of ketum, even telling other MPs that they could be energised after drinking water boiled with two ketum leaves.
“In some cases, a child with fever can be given water with ketum leaves to speed up recovery. Ketum leaves are also said to be able to lower blood pressure and sugar levels,” he added.
Ahmad Lai Bujang (BN-Sibuti) shared with other MPs that he sometimes took a ketum drink to keep himself awake while driving.
Dr Azman Ismail (PKR-Kuala Kedah) said there had been studies showing that ketum could be used as an alternative substance to treating heroin addiction and chronic pain.
“Ketum has been used traditionally by the older generation, who may not be penalised under the new proposed amendments,” he added.
Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (BN-Lenggong), however, disagreed over the proposed time frame.
“People should already know the ketum leaves have been misused and a delay in enforcement would make the Government look like it isn’t serious about it,” he said.
Datuk Hasbullah Osman (BN-Gerik) said ketum leaf abuse by students could lead to social ills.
Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN-Baling) supported the Bill, saying that ketum addiction had even led to murders in his constituency.
Dr Michael Jeyakumar (PSM-Sungai Siput) said the Government should decriminalise ketum, instead of making it a dangerous drug with heavy penalties imposed on casual users.
The second and third readings of the Bill were later postponed by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya to the next Dewan meeting.