Malaysia passed a law on Tuesday that will force criminal suspects to provide DNA samples, despite opposition complaints that the bill was aimed at legitimising evidence in the sodomy trial of their leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Under the act, which parliament passed with a simple majority, courts can compel suspects to provide non-intimate DNA samples such as hair and saliva, said Sivarasa Rasiah, an opposition parliamentarian. The provision of intimate samples such as semen or blood will not be mandatory.
Sivarasa said the DNA will be admissible in court as evidence, but not necessarily deemed to be conclusive. Before the law was passed, suspects could only be asked to give DNA voluntarily.
He said the act does not specify a punishment, but leaves it to the court to decide how to deal with people who refuse to give DNA samples.
The opposition alleges the bill was aimed at legitimising DNA evidence in the trial of the former deputy prime minister, Anwar. It also says there aren’t enough safeguards in the act, such as data protection guarantees, to protect suspects’ privacy.
The government has rejected the claims, saying it started drafting the bill long before Anwar was charged in August last year with sodomising a 23-year-old male aide.
His trial is scheduled to start July 8, and he faces up to 20 years in jail if he is found guilty of sodomy, a crime in this Muslim-majority country. Anwar, 61, has denied the charge, claiming it is politically motivated to hurt his three-party opposition alliance, which made unprecedented gains in general elections in March last year. The government has denied it is behind the sodomy accusation.
The opposition alliance ‘is convinced that the way, the manner they are rushing through and refusing to acknowledge some criticism by the MPs (it) is clearly meant to be used during the trial.’
‘… It’s a political malicious campaign. Nothing beyond that,’ Anwar said. ‘We have to fight them with or without the bill.’
But Law minister Nazri Abdul Aziz denied there was a political motive. ‘It is never the intention of the government to have a bill just to take vengeance on any individual. It is a coincidence,’ he told The Associated Press.