Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said says the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences had taken 34 years. (Image is for illustration purpose only).

KUALA LUMPUR: A bill to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed in Dewan Rakyat today, with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said saying the amendments were for the good of the nation.

She said the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences had taken 34 years.

“The government had taken into consideration the views and suggestions of 30 million Malaysians in drafting the amendment which will add an element of mercy in a certain situation where the judge sees fit,” she said when winding up the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2017.

She dismissed criticism from opposition members of parliament that the government was unconcerned and punitive towards offenders charged under Section 39B of the act.

Azalina said the amendment did not mean that the judges' hands will be tied by the government.

Rather, it will give them two choices of punishment, either hanging or imprisonment for life.

She noted that Section 39B was strict and defendants must be proven guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” or there would be grounds for appeal.

Azalina said those accused can end up being acquitted while those convicted can still appeal to the court.

In other words, those punished will not necessarily lose their life or end up in prison for a lifetime for certain.

At the same time, Azalina added that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak felt it was time for such initiatives to be taken, in line with the government's war on drugs which is considered the country's main enemy.

She said police statistics had recorded a high number of drug-related cases, with 702,319 people arrested for drug trafficking and drug trafficking from January 2014 to October this year.

Even more worrying were the arrests of 1,743 schoolchildren and 1,953 tertiary students. --Reporting by FERNANDO FONG, VEENA BABULAL and ARFA YUNUS

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