PETALING JAYA: While the proposed DNA database by the National Registration Department (NRD) is seen as a good move to counter the illegal issuance of MyKad and identity cards to foreigners, there are concerns that this may infringe individual privacy.
Criminologist Assoc Prof Dr P. Sundramoorthy of Universiti Sains Malaysia described the proposal as a very proactive and progressive suggestion for quashing syndicates responsible for such offences.
“Human rights activists will surely say that this database will violate privacy but as a criminologist, I would say that we have to give a little bit of our liberty for the sake of public safety.
“When you talk about public safety, a DNA database will invade your privacy. You cannot deny that but it gives more good than harm to society,” he said in an interview.
Besides NRD registration, having a DNA database, said Prof Sundramoorthy, would also help with law enforcement in terms of solving cold cases involving children’s abduction as well as in preventing identity theft cases.
“It is a good suggestion. Even in some countries, it has become a practice for them, especially in investigating criminal cases.
“Firstly, for the confirmation of the identity of a person or individual; secondly, for criminal databases; and thirdly, for identifying genetic diseases,” he said, adding that a universal DNA database was also becoming a trend.
On the rotation of NRD officers, he said that while this would help, such a move would not be viable in the long term.
“The most important thing is we need to professionally train our officers to adhere to strict conduct and good work ethics with a high standard of integrity. If we don’t have honest officers, rotation or any law implemented will not be useful.
“From the first day of our hiring process, we need to emphasise this,” he said.
However, Malaysian Association of Certified Fraud Examiners president Datuk Akhbar Satar said ensuring NRD officers would not remain at their post for more than two years was a good deterrent against corrupt practices and abuse of power.
“Proper supervision and monitoring of personnel are also needed to identify any red flags in terms of conduct.
“For example, if a superior identifies that a certain personnel is too close to the client, then such red flags can be acted upon. They can advise the personnel before such matters lead to misconduct,” he said.
Proper monitoring, said Akhbar, was also needed at government departments, especially those handling high-security matters, but said this would only work if the superiors themselves had high integrity and set a good example.
“Every move a superior makes, including unethical ones, can be seen by their subordinates. If their bosses are seen doing something illegal such as taking bribes, then some subordinates may use this as a form of rationalisation for them to do the same,” he said.
Commending the measures announced by the Home Minister as timely, Akhar urged the government to be more proactive in preventing fraud and corruption.
“A well-planned strategy and holistic approach is needed instead of knee-jerk reactions to problems or criminal incidents,” he said.
Suhakam commissioner Datuk Godfrey Gregory Joitol said stopping the registration of late births at NRD branches and only allowing this at the headquarters might worsen the problem of documentation for locals, especially in remote areas of Sabah.
“It is as if the people are being punished for the corrupt action of NRD officers,” he said, adding that he, however, supported the review of the NRD’s standard operating procedures.
This article first appeared on The Star.