Decriminalising minor drug offences way to go, says Lee Lam Thye

KUALA LUMPUR: The proposed new law to decriminalise minor drug offences is the way to go as addicts should be sent to rehabilitation centres for treatment instead of jail, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

He said that sending addicts to rehabilitation centres instead of jail is the most practical and humane way to deal with addiction.

"Ensuring treatment for addicts is a right move as addiction should be dealt with as a health problem instead of a criminal one," said the Alliance for a Safe Community chairman.

"In the past, addicts have been detained during enforcement operations, leading them to go through the full process of the law, leading them to be incarcerated," he added when contacted on Sunday (Oct 29).

The proposed new law will certainly help reduce overcrowding in prisons, Lee said.

"I believe drug-related offenders represent more than 60% of the prison population. Decriminalising minor drug offences will greatly assist in reducing the number of people incarcerated," he added.

Lee also called for addicts sent to rehab centres to be taught skills such as food handling, carpentry and even plumbing.

"If they can acquire such technical skills, at least they could obtain jobs once their treatments are over. It is important for rehabilitated addicts to have jobs so that they can start fresh, without relapsing," he said.

It was reported that the proposed new law to decriminalise minor drug offences in a bid to solve the issue of overcrowding in prisons will provide drug offenders with a fresh start and a second chance at life instead, say the stakeholders.

If it is introduced, convicted drug offenders will receive treatment instead of punishment after being certified by medical officers, and would be taken to rehabilitation centres.

At present, drug offenders face a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or a maximum jail term of two years under Section 15(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 upon conviction.

Meanwhile on another matter, Lee said the NGO also supported the call for the Palestine Solidarity Week in schools to be reviewed and added that elements of extremism or radicalism have no place in schools.

"A school is a place to inculcate good values. It is important to teach students to hate violence, not promote them. Teachers should teach students compassion, humanitarian values and love instead of hatred and violence," he said.

On Thursday, the Education Ministry announced that all educational institutions under its purview – including schools, vocational and matriculation colleges, and teacher training institutes – would be holding Palestine Solidarity Week until Nov 3.

On Friday, the ministry in another statement said it does not endorse any demonstration of support for Palestine that borders on the extreme, such as the waving of replica firearms or hoisting of banners inciting violence, as it responded to a widely circulated video depicting the goings-on in a school that had elements of radicalism.

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