Former CJ reminds Putrajaya of discrimination risk as govt redraws GEG Bill

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Retired chief justice Tun Zaki Azmi today suggested the government address gaps in its proposed law to curb tobacco use among future generations of Malaysians to prevent discrimination and power abuse.

Zaki expressed support for the government’s Generational End Game (GEG) Bill because of its deadly effects, but said that unless fixed, the Bill — which has been sent back to the drawing board — could lead to more problems, including deepening the illicit market and possible abuse by enforcement agencies.

He added that this could in turn enable corruption, giving an example of enforcement officers threatening to penalise smokers and potentially sellers to solicit bribes.

“There could be problems with enforcement,” he said at a forum organised by the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.

Still, Zaki suggested wobbly enforcement is a weak legal excuse to dismiss a law.

He proposed more genuine engagement between policymakers and experts, and urged lawmakers to pause retabling the GEG Bill until all gaps in the proposed law are amended.

Zaki also seemed to suggest that a referendum be held to see if the public is supportive of the Bill.

“Can we make the law... open to the public and see if they want it to be enacted, then enact it. But if someone comes out to challenge and say this is discriminatory, let the court decide. If it's not discriminatory, then the law takes its course,” he said.

Debates around the GEG Bill, the brainchild of former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin have been polarising.

On one side, there is public support on the back of concern about the ballooning cost of healthcare; and on the other side, smokers say the proposed Bill is an infringement of their civil liberty and puts the government in the position of being a nanny state.

As of September last year, over half a million people had signed the petition that sought the withdrawal of the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022.