Friday, June 25

Govt urged to establish accessible sex offenders list

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KOTA KINABALU: The International Strategy Institute (ISI) welcomes the recent statement made by Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Rina Harun on the draft Sexual Harassment Bill being in the final stages of review by the Attorney General’s Department and is expected to be completed this March and to be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat session.

It is indeed an important milestone which will create a sense of security and gain public trust as to who is living in their communities, however, the ISI feels that much more is needed to be done especially on the issue of public access to the sexual offenders list and the accuracy of the data in the actual Sexual Offenders list.

Due to the nature of the crime itself, ISI believes the sexual offenders list should be more accurate and complete where high-profile well-known cases as well as data going back to the year 2000 should be included into the list and not just from 2017 onwards.

In 2019, the then Deputy Minister of Women, Community and Family Development, Hannah Yeoh announced that the Ministry has come up with a child sex offender registry which was set to be running by April 1, 2019.

The initiative was welcome by all but the system in place was said to have some major setback as the red tape on the system created hurdles in dissemination of information.

The system was unable to produce searchable by name, year or area code, and include all types of sex crime offenders, not just paedophiles, to parents and future employers for societal safeguards for young children and the system apparently has only information starting from 2017 onwards and is unclear on cases involving Malaysians abroad, citing the case of a promising scholar who was convicted of owning child pornography in the UK and who has since returned home where he faces no penalties.

Whilst it is an appreciated and well received effort from the Government however, we should not leave any list half baked. Proper feedback or information should be given and received from PDRM and both Ministry of Women, Community and Family Development and Home Affairs should work together on the list to make it more accurate, accessible, complete, and current.

However, ISI also believes the ministry that should ultimately be given the responsibility to manage the list should be the Ministry of Home Affairs and not the Ministry of Women, Community and Family Development as the Ministry of Home Affairs would have more access and real time and up to date information on the actual sex offenders committed local and international.

Therefore, ISI urges the Government to allow the Ministry of Home Affairs to lead and take charge of the Sex Offenders list and make the list more accessible to the public. Parents especially should be aware of who their neighbours are. It is important for parents to have such information to have the opportunity to protect their family and feel safe.

In general, the public should be entitled to their privacy, but people forfeit that right when they harm someone else.