'Punish the parents for drug abuse by children': Government passes the buck to parents?

Press Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): Admitting weakness in battling drug abuse, a high-powered government committee suggested on Monday new laws that will penalise parents who fail to keep their drug-addict children on a tight leash (The Sun, 29 March 2005).

This proposal was discussed at the maiden meeting of the Action Committee on Law Enforcement, attended by senior officials from 13 ministries, including the inspector-general of police (IGP) and the attorney-general (AG).

The committee is one of three sub-committees (the others are education and health) set up recently to complement the Cabinet Committee chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

While we agree that parenting plays a big role in the war against drug abuse, the Government must admit that it takes a much bigger role and responsibility than parents. Punish the parents for drug abuse of children is like passing the buck to the parents.

The committee also revealed that five pieces of legislation relating to drug abuses are set to be "fine-tuned" to make them more effective.

They are the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, Poisons Act 1952, Drug Dependents (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983 (below the age of 18), Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985, and Dangerous Drugs (Forfeiture of Property) Act 1988.

We wish to point out to the Government that the biggest reason why they were not doing well in the fight against drug abuse was due to corruption. Laws may be tightened and modern detecting methods and machines can be purchased, but things will not improve without proper enforcement. And so long as corruption is rampant, we can expect no proper enforcement.

It’s time for the Government to work closely with NGOs and experts in the fields to fight drug abuse and to curb the exponential increase of HIV/AIDS cases in the country.

There are several established NGOs and many seasoned and experienced experts who have dedicated their time and energy to battle drug abuse in the country. They have been advocating for harm reduction and other new approaches instead of relying solely on the outdated abstinence modal. They should be invited to help formulate new strategies and action plans together with all relevant ministries and government agencies.

More than 300,000 Malaysia were detected as drug addicts by the end of 2004. The number of HIV/AIDS cases has shot up to 70,000. And the starting age of drug addicts have becoming even younger (from 13 to 15 year-olds).

The Government must really buck up instead of passing the buck!


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief