PETALING JAYA: Proposed amendments to the Drug Dependancy Act allow drug dependants to be treated from a medical instead of a criminal perspective, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

Describing the proposed amendments as timely and much needed, the Alliance for a Safe Community chairman said this gave dependants a chance for a fresh start.

He called for a thorough and proper implementation of the amendments, if passed.

Lee further stressed that those involved in the treatment and rehabilitation process must be qualified, capable and well trained.

“Or else, there is no point in sending them for rehabilitation when the centres are not well equipped or adequate to give the proper treatments,” he said.

He strongly urged the authorities to work closely with the Health Ministry for treatment aspects.

“The Health Ministry has the expertise when it comes to tackling substance misuse and dependancy issues,” he said

Lee also called on dependants to be prepared and voluntarily go to the centres to seek help.

“Most are afraid and tend to shy away but stepping forward to seek aid gives them an avenue to improve their quality of life,” he said.

Concurrently, Lee said the full force of the law has to be enforced on drug traffickers and syndicates.

On Tuesday (July 2), amendments to the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act were tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat.

Among others, it seeks to differentiate the interpretation of a drug- or substance-dependent person and a substance misuser.

The amendments, tabled by Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, aim to widen the scope of treatment and rehabilitation for addicts.

The proposed Section 6(a) also empowers a magistrate to allow a drug or substance misuser to undergo treatment and rehabilitation on the recommendation of a rehabilitation officer, with the individual allowed to make representations.

Drug- or substance-dependent individuals will also be eligible for this programme, and they can all apply to undergo voluntary treatment.

Under proposed amendments to Section 21, the period of imprisonment or detention will be deemed the period of treatment and rehabilitation within the community or at a rehabilitation or service centre.

If ordered to undergo treatment, individuals can serve the remainder of their prison or detention terms at a rehabilitation or service centre.

This means treating them instead of sending them to jail.